A mad, reckless and wildly undisciplined crime thriller, Viva Riva! looks and feels like an African blaxploitation movie-- a potentially interesting concept.
But after a promising atmospheric and colourful opening, Djo Tunda Wa Munga's thriller goes nowhere and descends into an unpleasant exercise in nihilism.
Set in the chaotic Congolese capital, Kinshasa, Viva Riva! stars Patsha Bay as a charismatic local wide boy called Riva.
As the film opens, Riva returns from a period of exile. He brings with him a cache of petrol, an extremely valuable commodity in a city beset by a fuel crisis. Riva knows the petrol will make him rich, and after getting a down-payment he goes on the razzle
But there's a problem: the fuel was stolen from a Angolan pantomime villain called Cesar (Hoji Fortuna), who descends on the Congo with his henchman looking for revenge.
Viva, who has a talent for trouble, then makes things worse by falling in love with Nora (Manie Malone), the girlfriend of a local gangster.
With various enemies hot on his trail, Viva continues living it up, dividing his time between a ritzy nightclub and his friendly neighbourhood brothel. Having established all this violent tension, Viva Riva! is inexorably bound for bloodshed.
What's initially interesting about Viva Riva! is its depiction of the chaos of life in the slums of Kinshasa, where life is cheap and children and women are especially vulnerable to violence
The film seems on the point of exploring this interesting theme when it veers into crude pastiche: the violence becomes gratuitous, the director throws in a lesbian sex scene merely to titillate and quickly loses the threads of his own slender story.