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I can't recall too many films being made on location in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A long time ago John Huston shot his now famous film "The African Queen", with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, in what was then the colonial Belgian Congo. Huston in his irrepressible manner seemed to regard it as an excuse for a massive big game hunt. Even that one wasn't shot on the mean streets of the countries capital Kinshasa, which perhaps most famously hosted one of the greatest boxing matches in history, the famous 'rumble in the jungle' between a supposedly unbeatable George Foreman and the one and only Muhammad Ali. A fight which is incidentally referred to in this film! So curiosity value alone made this film worth watching, and it did not turn out to be bad at all.
The film pretty much lives up to the hype on the front of the DVD cover which boldly proclaims that it is "like City of God done by Tarantino". There is no doubt that Congolese born director Djo Munga has been influenced by films like "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction". It has a similar style and levels of violence, so beware if you are of a sensitive nature. In this film, Riva a small time villain with charm hustles Angolan gangsters out of a substantial amount of fuel which he sells in Kinshasa for a handsome profit. He then begins to live the high life and falls for the beautiful mistress of a local mobster. Before long he has an angry mobster and the Angolans on his tail. Neither are folk to be messed with!
Munga has certainly made a film with plenty of energy and style. Kinshasa is portrayed as a dangerous place where bribery and corruption rule the roost, which is probably not far away from the truth. Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" still has a ring of truth to it! The Angolan gang are an excellent creation echoing Lee Marvin's gang of eastern hoodlums from "Prime Cut" making waves in hillbilly country. Their unflattering remarks about the Congo are quite funny. The sinister Hoji Fortuna is superb as the gangs ruthless leader. Not a man to cross! Manie Malone, who is surely one of the worlds most beautiful women is mesmerising as the fiery temptress, and Patsha Bay is also excellent as the ebullient lead. Crime and poverty are indeed endemic in the Congo, and it is this that drives the film. The film is perhaps a little too cynical for its own good in the way the action is fuelled by the love of money, which all the characters seem to be in thrall to. This makes for a rather bleak film with no real message of hope, although the director argued the closing shot of a young boy offered this. I would disagree with that view! It is this lack of a moral heart that makes me unable to warm to the film. This is purely a personal view. For those who like seedy underworld films then this is an unusual variant well worth watching.Read more ›
The synopsis for this African tale says that Riva! is an `operator' and a man with `charm and ambition'. He actually come across as a sexist, seventies based, drug and sex addict, albeit with a bit of charm. That said Patsha Bay playing Riva! (I think you have to put an exclamation mark after his name - like on the cover) does an excellent job of making Riva! actually very real and personable, in a rounded way. He is an `operator' in the sense that he has been away in Angola making money in nefarious ways for a crime Lord. He has now returned with a load of cash and a lorry load of petroleum or gas. He wants to spend the cash on ostentatious conspicuous consumption in bars and brothels, as quickly as is humanly possible; and sell the gas to the highest bidder.
Petrol is in short supply in all of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and especially so in Kinshasa. Corruption is rife and almost everybody seems to be involved in the sex industry. The place is just a dump so going for some recreational drugs and sex is probably seen as a good antidote to the whole thing. Meanwhile Riva! Spots Nora (Manie Malone) dancing at a night club, and is smitten by her good looks and lack of clothing. It is then that he finds she is the woman of another crime boss, Azor, who is a total brute (I can't say what I want as the sensors will pick it up). He is one of those cowardly bullies who gets others to do his dirty work and treats Nora as his personal chattel.
We also have a lesbian army Commandante, who's sister has been kidnapped and she is forced to help Viva's old boss track him down. We also have the police who are corrupt, and the church who also are surprisingly corrupt. In the chase no prisoners are taken and the violence is frequent and nasty. The acting is all very good as is the direction and the whole thing holds together brilliantly. It is also one of those films that seems shorter than it is at just over an hour and a half, as the action is more or less constant. It has good sub titles and is in French and Lingala. This is a great film, which I really enjoyed, it is described as containing strong sexuality, graphic nudity, brutal violence, language and some drug use, so avoid if that would cause offence. Or if like me its right up your street then go for it! Sorry couldn't resist one last exclamation mark.Read more ›
Charming if feckless smuggler Riva has run a load of fuel from oil-rich Angola into the DRC where the price is much higher, pursued by three nasties. Once in Kinshasa he aims to enjoy the fruits of his labours with (amongst others) the wife of a local gangster. The result is sex and violence on a Games Of Thrones level. It is pretty hard to find anyone with whom one sympathises (except perhaps JM's wife and kids)but the film does a very good job of explaining the various motivations. However, nobody seems to be too quick on the uptake so that the film lacks the bluff and counter-bluff that one might hope for.
Wow ! What a great film ! I caught it on TV at first and just knew I had to buy the DVD after missing bits while channel surfing. It really is like a Tarantinoesque film... the plot moves along with amazing twists and turns at every point...