IF YOU'RE NOT ACQUAINTED with how enormous and chaotic the city of Kinshasa is, it won't take long for Viva Riva! to make it plain. The capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a place of celebration and desperation in equal measures; it's here that the shady but charismatic Riva (Patsha Bay) has just returned from a years-long stretch in neighboring Angola with a truck of stolen gasoline. In a city where petrol is worth its weight in blood, that makes Riva a very powerful player, and he knows it, flaunting his wealth in everybody's face.
He's also got some really vicious Angolans on his tail, and when he goes after Nora (Manie Malone), the girlfriend of an established Congolese player, pretty much everybody in Kinshasa wants Riva dead. The movie is in turns both playful and seamy, with plenty of blood and sex. I couldn't quite work out the math on Riva's haul—he's stolen 25,000 liters of gas, and at the film's stated price of $6-7 per liter, that works out to, at most, $175,000, yet Riva seems to casually throw away more than that amount of cash over the course of the movie. But Economics 101 aside, Viva Riva! is a colorful crime flick, both lurid and unique.