VIVA RIVA! (director/writer: Djo Mungo; cinematographer: Antoine Roch; editors: Yves Langlois /Pascal Latil; music: Cyril Atef /Congopunq/Louis Vyncke; cast: Diplome Amekindra (Azor), Manie Malone (Nora), Marlene Longage (Commandante), Hoji Fortuna (César), Alex Hérabo (J.M.), Angélique Mbumb (Malou); Patsha Bay Mukana (Riva), Nzita Tumba (Mère Edo), Jordan N'Tunga (Anto); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Djo Mungo; Music Box Films; 2010-Congo/France/Belgium-in Lingala, Portuguese, French with English subtitles)

"What more can you ask from a gangster thriller than kinky sex, extreme violence, comical playfulness and soulful music?"

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

What more can you ask from a gangster thriller than kinky sex, extreme violence, comical playfulness and soulful jungle music? Auteur Djo Mungo ("Papy", born in Kinshasa, DR Congo (formerely Zaire). but since the age of 10 living in Belgium, successfully presents an explosive escapist flick shot in his native Congo. It's the first DRC film to receive a North American distribution.

back to his hometown Congo's capital of Kinshasa from Angola is small potatoes street hustler Riva (Patsha Bay Mukana). He hijacks the town's gas stockpile and sells the illegal gas from his truck with his irresponsible local party animal  partner J.M. (Alex Herabo). The dude induces Riva to spend the cash on clubs, booze and whores. When Riva falls in love with one of the hot party girl dancers, Nora (Manie Malone), the moll of the Angola gang lord Azor (Diplome Amekindra), it leads to gang spokesman César (Hoji Fortuna) requesting the stolen gas be returned to the gang or else.

Following the money trail leads to a plethora of sex and violence, that is set in nightclubs, brothels and the city's dark back streets. Crime and corruption are rampant. The lesbian
military commander (Marlene Longage) would rather make love and accept being blackmailed than do her job. In this tale, there are no innocents, and brutality is the norm. Nora, the film's most aware character, sums up the film's tawdry theme when she says "Money is like poison."

It's not for the prudish or squeamish or politically correct viewer. But kudos for the director, who had to shoot such a controversial film about country-wide corruption in a corrupt dictatorship where the media was closely watched and the film crew not completely trusted.

REVIEWED ON 6/7/2016       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"