REVIEW: 'Viva Riva!'

REVIEW: 'Viva Riva!'

3 stars

Brutal, gangster crime-drama from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Chronicles the misadventures of an oil bandit and his sidekick as they run afoul of everyone from the police to the local crime boss. Now playing in Auckland and Wellington, click for movie times.

Some familiar cinematic conventions are delivered via a highly exotic context in this violent and sexually-charged crime thriller from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Filled with classic movie swagger, young n’er do well Riva (Patsha Bay) finds himself back in his home town of Kinshasa (the largest city in the Congo), with a pocketful of cash and a truckload of petrol. Which, in fuel-starved Kinshasa, makes him somewhat of a target.

But Riva just wants to have fun and he recruits his old buddy J.M. for a night on the town, which takes a turn for the perilous when Riva takes a shine to the local gangster’s moll (the stunning Manie Malone). Making matters worse is Riva’s old Angolan gangster boss Cesar (Hoji Fortuna), who has come to the Congo to track down his former employee.

The alien environment makes Viva Riva! a fascinating watch, as some clichés are embraced while others are turned on their head. Bay is an empathetic lead but he is blown off the screen by the angular Fortuna, who seems to carry himself with a permanent lean as the ruthless Cesar.

The initial grimness of daily life in the Congo is quickly offset by the vibrancy of the characters and the beauty of the locations but don’t go in expecting anything too slick.

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