Riddick, which sees Vin Diesel return as the indestructible and indecipherable, intergalactic outlaw of the title is one of the least anticipated sequels of recent years. This is the third instalment in an ersatz trilogy that also includes 2000’s surprisingly effective Pitch Black and 2004’s awful The Chronicles of Riddick. Sitting somewhere between the two in terms of quality and seemingly deriving much of its inspiration from computer games and a Korn videos, Riddick is silly, gory, occasionally amusing and utterly predictable.
Riddick finds Diesel’s grumbling, bald-headed anti-hero stranded on a desolate planet fighting for survival against fake-looking cgi beasties which include tiger-striped hyenas and toothy scorpion-tailed serpents. With its lone hero trudging through an inhospitable alien landscape, the film at times recalls Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Enemy Mine and even Call of the Wild just without the pathos, originality or compelling story. When Riddick attempts to attract rescue by launching a distress beacon he inadvertantly brings a group of bounty hunters and a team of mercenaries desperate to capture him alive or preferably dead. In a depressingly familiar narrative, Riddick turns Rambo stalking and wasting supposedly elite but astonishingly incompetent mercenaries before discovering that he and the few people he hasn’t killed must band together to battle hordes of computer-generated monsters. Fortunately, old Riddick’s pretty useful in the creature killing department having done exactly the same thing in Pitch Black.
Diesel is a comical sight in this film as he struts around the desert in welding goggles, Roman centurion armour and a billowing cape which makes him look like one of the pretend superheroes in Kick Ass. At no point in the film does Diesel engage in a normal conversation with another human being as all his dialogue consists of smug threats and clichéd tough guy quips. He also, reveal a disturbing penchant for sadomasochism as he frequently impales himself on spiky, phallic objects thereby presenting the unnerving possibility that this film might be some sort of bondage fantasy.
The rest of the cast are, for the most part, a collection of clichés with hulking bandana wearing henchmen, a young, nervous greenhorn guy, a female who’s like the lovechild of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and Denise Crosby’s security chief from Star Trek: Next Generation and in lead bounty hunter Santana (Jordi Molla), a stereotypical sweaty, sleazy villain who we just know will meet a sticky end. The exception is Matt Nable as mercenary leader Johns who has a deeply personal reason for pursuing Riddick. Nable previously demonstrated his powerful yet nuanced acting style as Detective Gary Jubelin in Underbelly: Badness and here he’s the only person to perform with any hint of subtly or depth.
Director David Twohy, who helmed the previous Riddick films and cinematographer David Eggby have conjured a yellow-filtered monochrome world that, apart from a few striking panoramic shots, looks dull and all too obviously the product of back screening. The film is also full of appallingly unconvincing special effects including a sequence on flying jet skis that evokes memories of Sam J. Jones on the Hawkman rocket cycle in Flash Gordon.
The film features a plethora fight scenes and gory killings which should have exploited Diesel’s impressive physicality but these confrontations are ruined by wobble cam and maniacal choppy editing. Consequently the action scenes lack impact and fail to energise what soon becomes a listless film. Worst of all, though, Riddick fails to engage the audience emotionally so viewers have no reason to care about the characters and the movie simply becomes a series of hollow, disconnected set-pieces.
Looking for subtly, subtext and philosophical depth in a B-movie like this is understandably a lost cause but audiences would at least hope for some genuine excitement and fun both of which are missing in this murky and cliché-ridden film.
Nick’s rating: Two stars.
Director(s): David Twohy.
Release date: 12th Sept 2013
Running time: 118 mins.
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