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Star - Nollywood
Genre - Action (subtitled)
County - Dem Rep Congo
Certificate - 15
Run Time - 98 minutes
Blockbusters - £99p per night
Amazon - £4.99 DVD
Awards - Nominated for various Africa film awards
Its not often you get any 'Nollywood' films in Blockbusters but there it was all alone on the cheap rack looking unloved, curiosity value alone well worth a rent. 'Nollywood' is the official slang for Nigerian adult cinema but unofficially the N word has a rather different meaning in Nollywood that we honkies must neither utter and encompasses all West African adult cinemas. The DVDs have sprung up more and more outside of London as they are now being sold and rented from those African-Caribbean barber shops that are open all night and seem to be springing up all over the country because of the explosion of asylum seekers under New Labor. Why would anyone want to have their hair cut at 4 a.m. is the first question and the second is why not more Black African cinema in Blockbusters? It seems you can have both the film and the haircut when you walk past those lively and fun paces.
Viva Riva is a Congolese action thriller and West African vibrant and a superior effort in the genre from this part of the world as it won many Africa film awards for its western style action and acting. I like to watch movies that are recommended from different parts of the world as they make a change to the perfunctory Hollywood action cliché and so snap them up when we get the chance to actually rent one.
Patsha Bay ... Riva
Manie Malone ... Nora
Hoji Fortuna ... César
Marlene Longange ... La Commandante
Diplome Amekindra ... Azor
Alex Herabo ... J.M.
Angelique Mbumb ... Malou
Nzita Tumba ... Mère Edo
Romain Ndomba ... G.O.
Jordan N'Tunga ... Anto
Tomas Bie ... Jorge
Davly Ilunga ... Joaquin
Handsome and confident charmer Riva (Patsha Bay) is a small time hustler and has happened upon some contraband fuel, just as Kinshasa suffers its biggest petrol shortage for twenty years, smuggling in a truck full by boat to the Congolese capital ready to sell to the highest bidder. He hasn't been back to his home town in ten years and with a healthy first down payment on his hip he looks up his old friend J.M ( Alex Herabo) to party, J now married with a kid and happy to escape his henpecked life for the weekend.
In the bars and clubs of Kinshasa, Viva catches site of sexy siren Nora (Manie Malone), the girlfriend of local crime boss Azor (Diplome Amekindra), who is not best pleased with Viva's attention on his girl. Also on Riva's back is the man he stole the fuel from, Angola mobster César (Hoji Fortuna), who is more forceful in his dislike for Riva, especially if he catches him s he arrives in town with his goons. Once Azor gets to hear about the petrol he wouldn't mind the booty for himself, double trouble.
César, to speed up his search in Kinshasa, bribes a local female cop (Marlene Longange), who, after springing César's heavies from jail for not paying bribes, gets a tip where Riva and the fuel maybe and beginning to pursue them across the cities nightspots. But Riva is fearless and not afraid of any of his pursuers, desperate to win the heart of Nora, however many guns and thugs that will take to get to her, his best mate J exasperated by his friends methods that could get them killed. But when the body count rises and cops are killed by the Angolans it may be time for Riva to leave town for another ten years.
Although nothing new here as far as plot and action goes, Viva Riva is good fun with its exotic locations, sharp suited and energetic macho men and sexy women making this understandably appealing to an African male audience. Viva Riva reminds me a lot of the 1970s exploitation movies coming out of Hollywood with a mix of black stereotypes and Honk Kong cinema in the rather exotic cinema mash up here. It's almost as it demands terrible dubbing and silly sound effects to be complete. Exciting young director Djo Mungo has clearly drawn from many types of cinema to drag an excellent little movie out of the Republic of Congo here.
It's a rather sexy movie to with some naughty scenes that are unexpected as they are steamy, stunning lead actress Manie Malone dripping sensuality in every scene, mesmerizing on screen as she teases Riva with every inch of her impressive body. Patsha Bay as Riva is also fabulous and the Denzel Washington of African cinema by the looks. Those sex scenes feel forced though in the context of the movies rapid pacing and seem to be put in at the request of the producers so it can do more business as the sexy couple does it in the most unexpected places and angles. Nothing wrong with that but I somewhat naively thought there cinema would be more conservative even though Africa is anything but.
It will be hard to dig this movie up in the shops but if it does pop up on TV then don't dismiss it simply because of where it comes from. It's a well made and crafted action film. Its one of those movies you stick in the player and think you won't like it but the director skilled enough to tease you in as he pulls all the right testosterone soaked strings with what is a very basic premise here, I suppose the essence of a good action filmmaker. Indeed Djo Munga is a director to keep an eye out for if he can make movie shot in the violent streets of Kinshasa work on such a small budget. Good fun if you are open-minded and want to try new things, as Mick Jagger once said when he arrived in Soho...
Imdb.com - 6.3/10.0 (603votes)
Metacritc.com - 65% critic's approval rating
Rottentomatos.com -85% critic's approval rating
The Times - 'Munga's screenplay rarely rises above the conventional, but he keeps things motoring nicely, and there's the smell of authenticity about the ramshackle locations he's chosen'.
The L;A Times -'What Munga has to say in this feature directorial debut is delivered via a quick-paced, gritty crime story that is both entertaining and enlightening'.
The Daily Mail -'Patsha Bay plays the macho title character, but the film belongs to sultry Manie Malone as the dancehall diva he aims to steal from the top mob boss. She makes even the act of applying lipstick spark with erotic electricity'.
The Melbourne Age -'Worth checking out just based on the rarity of a movie with an empathetic black protagonist even being made about the Congo'.
The Guardian - 'A nastily effective, sociologically pungent genre piece...'
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