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Review: Viva Riva!

A gritty get-down
By TOM MEEK  |  July 5, 2011
3.0 3.0 Stars

One thing about Djo Tunda Wa Munga's plucky Third World noir: it never slows down. Nearly every scene bristles with the prospect of a violent set-to or saucy sexual coupling — all fueled by a some drums of black-market gasoline stashed away in petrol-starved Congo. The titular Riva (Patsha Bay Mukana) steals the gas from an Angolan gangster (an edgy Hoji Fortuna) who will do anything — the more violent the better — to get his contraband back. But this doesn't stop Riva from throwing money around a swank nightclub and recklessly pursuing another crime boss's moll (Manie Malone). Add to the den of thieves a lesbian army commander and a priest on the take. Comparisons to Fernando Meirelles's City of God aren't far off, though Munga's underworld lacks the depth and biting social commentary of that Brazilian street-crime classic. Still, Riva's a gritty get-down that'll hit you in the gut.

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