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‘Riddick’ Review: Vin Diesel delivers another commanding performance

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Vin Diesel returns as the anti-hero Riddick, in a competent but predictable movie that will be an audience pleaser for those looking for action adventure. The trilogy began with Pitch Black (2000) which was a compelling, scary, sci-fi movie made for approximately $22 million, and it grossed almost double that worldwide at the box office. 

Riddick survives the first movie and the filmmaker shifted tone for the derivative Chronicles of Riddick (2004), which played like a mash up of Dune and Lord of the Rings. The movie also starred Judi Dench (seriously?) and an emo-looking Karl Urban, before he donned a Star Trek uniform. In addition to starring in the sequel, Diesel also produced it.Photo: collider.com

The third film returns Riddick to the successful formula of Pitch Black, quickly wraps up the storyline from the previous film and leaves Riddick stranded on another inhospitable planet. He fights the elements and the treacherous indigenous wildlife. After an overly long interlude, Riddick comes upon an empty mercenary station- where he sets off a beacon to plot an escape off the planet.

This middle section was most enjoyable – Riddick’s distress call attracts two groups of bounty hunters. The first, led by Santana (Jordi Molla) is a band of tough, grungy misfits. The second, headed by Boss Johns (Matt Nable), appear to be an elite tactical unit with better toys. The two teams try and prevent the other from succeeding, but they quickly have to shift their approach once Riddick decides to engage.

Katee Sackhoff makes the most of her tough and flirty tomboy role of Dahl. She gets some of the best lines and throws a stronger punch than the men.  While she’s great, it’s a bit disappointing to see her typecast after her fabulous turn as Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica. Despite this drawback, Sackhoff and Diesel have saucy repartee and chemistry.

One of the highlights of the film is the creatures on the planet. The earlier sequences recall classic movies Jason and the Argonauts and Island of Terror, as well as the claustrophobia of the early Alien movies. The weapons tech is also impressive, designed with a lot of subtle details.


Unfortunately, the plot of Riddick is basically a retread of the original movie. While that was clearly a successful construct, it would have been nice if the writers expanded the scope of the final act. They attempt to make Riddick a bit more introspective, but that gets lost when his primary interaction includes scaring tough men. However, the character’s work with women in the supporting roles has been more intriguing.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Diesel apparently bartered his cameo appearance in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift for the rights to Riddick. He is a commanding presence, and can turn on a convincing menacing vibe. Diesel and director David Twohy have worked on the trilogy, and I wager we will be seeing more of our silver-eyed defender.

 

Contact Diane Cooney at dcooney@philly2philly.com

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Photo: collider.com