Reviews For The Easily Distracted: Riddick

Title: Riddick

Vin Diesel Is Still Doing These? Even With All Those Fat Stacks Of Fast & Furious Cash? Riddick is the role that made Diesel a leading man, lo those many years ago. I suspect he does it as a favor to writer/director David Twohy, who has made a whopping two non-Riddick films since 2000.

Rating Using Random Objects Related To The Film: Three Claymore mines out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Unceremoniously dumped on an alien world, everyone's favorite sci-fi murderer finds himself once again beset by enemies -- human and otherwise -- who want him dead.

Tagline: "Survival is his revenge."

Better Tagline: "Third verse, same as the first."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: What does the Most Wanted Man in the Universe do when he finds himself betrayed and abandoned on a hostile planet? He tries to find a way off, which in this case means setting off a beacon at a deserted mercenary outpost in order to, as one disposable character put it, "Call a cab." Two separate teams arrive: the first a standard bounty hunter outfit only interested in collecting the price on Riddick's (preferably detached) head, the second led by a man driven by a more personal grievance. Naturally, they've bitten off more than they can chew. Also, Riddick is far from the biggest threat on the planet.

"Critical" Analysis: It'd be a stretch to say the world was clamoring for another Riddick movie. Pitch Black was a mild success and a cult hit, while its sequel -- The Chronicles of Riddick -- was neither. Given that it's been nine years since Chronicles, I don't think anyone would've been surprised if the character died an uncharacteristically quiet death.

With Riddick, Twohy and Diesel have mostly abandoned the epic mythologizing of Chronicles and returned to the bare bones brutality and R-rated sensibilities of the first movie. This is not-so-subtly broadcast to us when Riddick, smarting at having allowed himself to go soft as leader of the Necromongers, is forced to live off the land and contend with its unfriendly denizens. Helion Prime, seat of his former power, is only briefly shown in flashbacks outlining how his rival Vaako (a barely glimpsed Karl Urban) engineered his exile on a distant world.

So for a while at least, you've got this nice throwback to Pitch Black: no political intrigue, no phantom Dame Judi Dench, and at least this time the planet isn't a physics-defying laugher like Crematoria (it's half Bizarro Monument Valley, half uglier Scottish highlands). It starts out as a nice interlude. But then the mercs arrive, and the game of cat-and-mouse begins (in which the mice are screwed no matter how numerous or heavily armed they are), and after an hour you suddenly realize, "Well shit, they're not leaving the planet at all."

Hey, if you're going to remake Pitch Black, you might as well get the original writer/director and star. [Side note: I actually watched PB again recently and 2000-era Diesel is almost scrawny compared to his current buffulous self. Gotta keep up with the (Dwayne) Johnsons.] I know I was one of the few people who actually liked Chronicles, so for me it's disappointing Twohy went through all the trouble to create this elaborate universe around Riddick and has him essentially marking time in the character's first movie in almost a decade.

Understandably less of an ensemble piece this time around, there's still not much to note among the supporting cast. Spanish actor Jordi Mollà is adequately sleazy as Santana, the leader of the bounty hunters, Matt Nable gurns admirably as the rival merc leader with a connection to Riddick's past you won't need a "shine job" to figure out, and Katee Sackhoff gets to chew some scenery as Dahl, the merc second in command.

How well you like Riddick will depend on whether you a) like watching Vin Diesel act all Vin Diesel-y (to be fair, it's hard to imagine anyone else playing the character), b) were heavily invested in the history of the Necromongers and Riddick's home planet of Furya, c) have really been pining to see Starbuck's nipples.

Riddick is in theaters today. Or, you know, you could always go see The World's End again.

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