A blast from start to finish, writer-director Djo Tunda Wa Munga’s “Viva Riva!” marks the Congo as an African filmmaking center to watch. Reveling in genre codes and reminiscent of Tony Scott’s mix of adrenaline and style, this sexy actioner, hinging on gasoline smuggling, betrayals and hot-blooded eros, is certain to travel to fests looking for a fun, well-made genre programmer. Non-Francophone buyers will be indifferent to pic’s attractiveness purely because of its place of origin.
Riva (Patsha Bay Mukana) is a likable Kinshasa-based hustler aiming to smuggle a sizable cache of pricey gasoline from a shady bunch of Angolans. His focus is understandably distracted by the stunning Nora (Manie Malone, a knockout from head to toe), the mistress of tough local crime boss Azor (Diplome Amekindra). With thugs to the right and left of him, Riva presses his luck with Nora by his side, and Munga matches his hero’s nerve. Antoine Roch’s digital cinematography and Yves Langlois’ acute editing support the helmer’s ambition for moviemaking that’s neither African art cinema nor cheapo Nollywood escapism.