“The River” ponders whether you can go home again, particularly if you’ve never been there. When Alfa (French rapper Stomy Bugsy) kills his drug-dealer boss in retaliation for a friend’s death, his brother cryptically suggests he leave Paris and “go toward the river.” Accompanied by sassy Senegalese cousin Marie (Auriele Coulibay), he embarks on a road trip back to his disdained African roots. Pic possesses a picaresque charm, plus feisty persona of Marie. But Bugsy is so unflaggingly morose, it’s hard to understand what Marie sees in him. Pic, yet to find a distrib in France, stands little chance in the U.S.
“River” is based on a screenplay by late Guinean writer-director David Achkar (“Allah Tantou”), with helmer Keita taking over as a labor of love. Throughout Alfa’s African journey, Keita often flashes back from the sharp-edged colors of Senegal and Guinea to the grainy, washed-out Paris of Alafa’s memories. But one senses mournful alienation is not Keita’s forte. Rather, pic rallies during scenes of casual derring-do — the recapture of a stolen truck or a jaunty escape from a vengeful Frenchman’s torture.