Riddick Movie Review
Vin Diesel and filmmaker David Twohy wrestle their iconic intergalactic character back to his leaner, meaner roots in this bluntly titled thriller. This movie harks back to what made 2000's Pitch Black such a discovery: one misunderstood man fighting idiotic reactions to real danger. Thankfully, the filmmakers have set aside the murky mythologising of the 2004 sequel The Chronicles of Riddick.
There's a brief mention of things like necromongers and the underverse before Riddick (Diesel) is abandoned on a harsh desert planet apparently populated by only two species: stripy, spiky-haired wild dingos and slimy two-legged scorpion-stinging beasts. Riddick gets to grips with both, even domesticating one of the doggies, then sends a distress signal that is answered by two teams of bounty-hunting mercenaries. First up is a motley crew led by Santana (Molla), and they're soon joined by a muscle-head team captained with military precision by the steely Johns (Nable), who has a secret personal reason for being here. But of course Riddick is ready for them.
All of the characters are beefy hotheads, challenging each other's authority with gruffly shouted taunts. Even as they play it straight, the cast members have a lot of fun with this banter. As Johns' first officer, Sackhoff is clearly in her element as the only female in sight, happily giving the men a taste of their own machismo. Even man-mountain Bautista gets into the fun as Santana's brutish thug, calmed down by Danby's true-believer nice guy. Everyone is sure they can capture Riddick easily, of course, but he picks them off one-by-one until they accept his terms. This heightened human interaction gives the movie a kick of energy that holds our attention even as things begin to feel faintly ridiculous.
Riddick's efficient tactics make this resemble a slasher horror movie in which we're on the side of the killer. But the crazed atmosphere makes it enjoyable. Twohy keeps his tongue in his cheek through each nutty plot twist while obscuring the screen with darkness and rain, which are at least more interesting than the planet's dull landscape and uninteresting digitally animated creatures. Hopefully Diesel and Twohy will focus on this in the sequels they are still planning. But it's hard not to worry that those necromongers are going to turn up again and make everything feel woolly and silly again.