Friday, September 6, 2013


If I had to choose a favorite from the multitude of characters that Vin Diesel has played over the years I would pick Richard B. Riddick in a microsecond. The complex, interesting and conflicted anti-hero is a badass killing machine on two legs that only stops to grunt or growl a pithy one liner after offing his prey. He also has a conscience. See… interesting.

Pitch Black was a great small scale monster movie that was made on a shoestring budget and unleashed one of the best characters in genre films onto the world. All the players were likable to an extent, the action was plentiful and the story never stopped plowing toward its heartbreaking conclusion.
The Chronicles of Riddick was released a few years later and opened up the universe into epic territory due to a massive budget. There were a lot more characters and subplots to keep track of, but we learned gobs about what made Riddick tick and the movie (thankfully) switched gears and went into full blown sci-fi mode instead of simply rehashing the original film. A very cool cliffhanger closed out the flick, but due to poor box office returns another follow up wasn’t in the cards.

Vin Diesel managed to finagle the rights to the character back from Universal (in exchange for his cameo in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) and nearly nine years later we finally get the next chapter in the saga – Riddick.

Left for dead on a barren planet by traitorous Necromongers, Riddick (Vin Diesel) must contend with the natural hazards this inhospitable world has to offer as well as two teams of bounty hunters out to capture him dead or alive.
Due to a smaller budget the scope was pulled back and the story simplified to focus on the title character. The movie is also broken up into three distinct acts - Riddick trying to survive the harsh planet, the bounty hunters and the alien creature attack.

The first act begins with ten minutes that are sans dialogue to allow the audience to acclimate to the drastic change of pace and reacquaint themselves with Riddick after his extended hiatus. Writer/director David Twohy, who also helmed the other films in the series, keeps this segment compelling through his beautiful visuals and smart script. Once we learn about the backstory involved in how he came to be stranded on this world, thanks to a welcome cameo by Karl Urban reprising his role as Vaako, the story gets moving as we follow Riddick’s quest to survive as well as finding a friend in an endearing dingo alien creature. One cool twist is that we learn that Riddick has sort of lost his edge and the first 30 minutes are about him trying to get his mojo back. It’s good stuff.
Act two begins once Riddick summons the bounty hunters in order to steal one of their ships to escape the planet. Oddly enough the script forgets about Riddick for about a half hour in order to develop the competing teams of mercenaries. Unfortunately this part of the film begins to drag as soon as the title character is off screen because these guys and gals aren’t all that interesting, are given some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard all year (“It’s like calling an ambulance for an ambulance!” or the gem “I’m going to put your head in a box!”) and act like idiots just begging to be killed. At least in Pitch Black I wanted the secondary characters to live. Here I was counting the minutes until they died so I wouldn’t have to hear them talk anymore.

Act three happens pretty late in the game. Riddick comes back into the forefront and the creatures are treated as just another obstacle and not a plot point as they were in Pitch Black. It’s good since I was worried that this aspect would just be another retread of the original. Thankfully that’s not the case.
There are twists and turns, revelations about characters and events explored in previous films and some fast, gory action. The cinematography is rad, but it’s obvious the film was shot entirely against greenscreens due to some poor chroma keying and compositing. For the most part the FX, which are plentiful, look good. I especially liked Riddick’s dingo pet. The animators managed to give this alien dog a personality and Diesel sells it so well I thought I was looking at a real animal at times.

Outside of Diesel, who no doubt could play this part in his sleep based on how into his character he gets at times, the acting is more than a little shitty. Jordi MollĂ  (Bad Boys II) has never been worse than he is here. He’s embarrassing to watch at times in the way he goes over the top as the leader of one pack of mercs. Matt Nable, who plays the head honcho of the other group of bounty hunters, is the exact opposite. He’s boring and acts as if he’s asleep most of the time. I’d almost call it a somnambulist performance. Dave Bautista (The Man with the Iron Fists) tries and fails to come off as a hard ass by acting juvenile and cracking lame jokes instead. Only Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) seems interested in actually performing as her character. Unfortunately she isn’t given a whole lot to do and her role comes down to being the token chick in the flick so it isn’t a complete sausage fest.
Riddick is a very uneven movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the first and third acts, but act two drags on and on and kills the momentum that was set up so carefully. The movie is also about twenty minutes too long. If some additional editing was performed to the second act I’m sure I would be singing a different tune right now. Sadly that was not the case. I did enjoy the flick as a whole regardless of the lackluster snoozefest in the middle. I just get the feeling that Twohy became so enamored with these bounty hunters he wrote that he let them take over the movie. It was a bad choice on his part.

Even though I have some issues with it, I am still pumped for the (hopefully) continuing adventures of the coolest murderer in films.

3.5 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment