Wednesday, April 24, 2013

V is for Viva Riva!


Democratic Republic of The Congo, 2010
Running Length: 98 minutes
Cast: Patsha Bay,  Manie Malone, Diplome Amekindra
Director:  Djo Munga
Screenplay: Djo Munga
Cinematography: Antoine Roch

On the surface, this is a familiar story: an entrepreneur in a corrupt country manages to gain control of something everybody wants and finds himself running for his life.  One cannot picture a more corrupt landscape than The Congo and the country becomes a character in its own right in this film.

Riva is a small-time crook.  He manages to steal a truckload of gas from Angola and brings it to Kinshasa to sell.  With gas in short supply, he decides to hold out until the city’s reserves are drained completely so he can sell his for the highest possible price.  Of course, the man who he stole the gas from isn’t going to sit back and watch his money drain into someone else’s pocket.  Also on Riva’s tail is the gangster who controls Kinshasa.  When Riva becomes infatuated with a gorgeous red-haired woman, it comes as no surprise she is this gangster’s moll.

Yes, these characters are stereotypes.  Interestingly, Riva isn’t.  Rather than being a savvy schemer, he’s a roguish fun-lover whose greatest asset is a bottomless well of luck.  He manages on several occasions to elude pursuers by leaving a room fractions of a second before they arrive.  Some moments come across as being almost slapstick in their careful orchestration, but these breaths of fresh air are needed to cut through the sadistic violence and brutal sex that characterizes much of the film.

This is a violent film.  Very violent.  And when the violence is against women, it is almost too hideous to watch.  But The Congo has the highest incidence of rape in any country in the world, so I have to assume that this depiction is an accurate reflection of the society.  And it's horrific.

Brutal, fast paced and often discomforting, this film is not without its flaws, but it manages to be a thrilling ride nonetheless.  Picture a film by Tony Scott, set in the Congo.  This is that film.


  1. I didn't know the Congo was that bad. I thought the worst were Niger, Nigeria, Botswana, Rwanda, Burundi, Mali ... Well, I guess all of them are pretty awful.
    A friend gave me "The Gods Must Be Crazy" to watch a few weeks ago. I hated it and stopped watching after 15 minutes. Viva Riva sounds much worse. Well, congrats on finding a "V" movie! I bet W, X, Y and Z are gonna be hard. Good luck! :-)

    1. W and Y are fine, but I admit to struggling a little with X and Z....

  2. It's hard when it gets to V to find topics you did a good job with it.

    Thanks for coming by and visiting my blog.
    A to Z Ambassador for Arlee Bird,

  3. This doesn't sound like my kind of movie. Thanks for stopping by my blog and the review though. Nice to meet you.

  4. I love that you are posting about foreign films (at least the ones I popped by were foreign to me here in Canada). I'll be bookmarking your blog so that I can try and watch a few of the films you've posted about. This one, however, I think I'll pass on. I know how real the rape issue is in DRC, but I just don't think I can watch this film.

    Thanks for stopping by my U is UNB post. Where in Canada were you?

    Cheers, Brandy from