In all fairness, ‘Riddick’ is not the first clumsy film franchise to not recognize how it overstayed its welcome and it won’t be the last neither. It all began with the birth of 2000’s ‘Pitch Blac’k, a rather half decent and taut sci-fi chiller that caught many by surprise in its tension-filled originality. The follow-up, 2004’s anemic and inconsistent ‘The Chronicles Of Riddick’, failed to capitalise on the thrilling impact of its predecessor four years earlier. Now, nearly a decade later, this turgid sci-fi spectacle decides to conveniently make its presence known at the box office as the summertime sizzle for action-packed fodder start to simmer down.
Balding badass Vin Diesel reprises his role as the titular anti-hero wandering the galaxies as he tries to duck and dodge the persistent bounty hunters looking to capture his wanted high-priced hide. As everyone is familiar with the story, Diesel’s Riddick was the intriguing ex-con (and breakout star) from the aforementioned ‘Pitch Black’. Clearly, the swagger and infectious naughtiness of the menacing and muscular scamp warranted Diesel’s return to parade on screen as the edgy futuristic fugitive (not to mention his popular resurgence in the inexplicable high-in-demand ‘Fast & The Furious’ flicks that add considerable clout to his current box office appeal).
Writer-director David Twohy (‘The Fugitive’, ‘Waterworld’, ‘G.I. Jane’) has put his cinematic handprint on all three of the ‘Riddick’ film series yet has shown little or no deviation from the formulaic clutter that bogged down the second entry in ‘Chronicles’. Basically, ‘Riddick’ strays and strains while never serving up a throbbing storyline to justify why the audience wants to reacquaint themselves with the pumped-up planetary bad boy. Besides merely coasting on the roguish reputation of Diesel’s screen alter ego, Twohy oversees a predictable and pointless sci-fi actioner that resorts to the standard yet overdone man-on-the-lam premise accompanied by serviceable CGI effects, forced and pretentious spontaneous banter, scattershot doses of kick-butt gumption, trivial goriness and interchangeable characters that more than grate on the nerves. Twohy’s big-budgeted twitchy tale of one maligned man that can never return to his galactic restful roots again certainly offers a tainted and tarnished element of…get ready for this…utter Riddick-ulousness.
The story showcases the hardnosed killer convict Riddick, who is the target of betrayal by his deceptive escorts as he is left on a desolate planet that is plagued with an immense sun-scorching, arid atmosphere. Riddick’s immediate expectations was to find his lost home planet of Furya but is left stranded with the uncertainty of his fate placed in the steamy, deserted and rocky environment. Thankfully, Riddick locates a cave-oriented retreat/post where he can wait out his time for contemplating how to depart this furnace-coated planet.
As a threatening storm approaches the area, Riddick has to worry about a pack of feuding bounty hunters known as the Mercs that are hot on his trail and looking for that robust payday when he’s finally caught and bonus money is given if Riddick’s lifeless carcass is produced on a slab…what an incentive, huh? The status of Riddick is driven to the ground — he’s deemed the most notorious outlaw and the argumentative double sides of the Mercs have conflicting agendas as to how to manhandle the runaway felon.
As if the existence of bizarre-looking beasts and intolerable weather conditions are not enough to tangle with on-going frustration, Merc leaders Santana (Jordi Molla) and Johns (Matt Nable) clash with diverse viewpoints about Riddick’s seizure. The sadistic Jordi wants Riddick chopped into pieces and spread out for the planetary pests to devour while Johns is more practical and needs to keep Riddick in one piece to answer some personal questions near and dear to his heart pertaining to his deceased son. Female second-in-command Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) is a tough-as-nails lesbian crusader armed with an acid-tongued wit and will let it be known that her male counterparts are not dealing with a dainty, curvaceous cupcake that needs taming behind bedroom walls.
‘Riddick’, consequently, is reduced to one repetitive and unimaginable fight scene after another pitted against the grainy backdrop of the dreary planet set designs. The dim-witted dialogue is uninspired in raunchiness. The chintzy writing for this boisterous future-world farce is convincingly hollow and dank more so than the mountainous hole in which Riddick temporarily resides for shelter.
There is no need to practice his acting chops in this pedestrian popcorn thriller as Diesel mumbles his delivered lines as if he has swallowed a box of nails while harboring a sore throat. Molla’s chewy turn as the vile law enforcer out to destroy Diesel’s Riddick feels cartoonish and desperate. Only Sackhoff’s refreshing showing as a same-sex sass with warrior-like tendencies is mildly acceptable among the frenzied foolishness of her insufferable supporting players.
The first few minutes of ‘Riddick’ does show some resiliency in tranquility but goes downhill from there as Twohy’s disjointed drama pointlessly plods along as Diesel’s monosyllabic protagonist grumbles and groans about his predicament at large. Oh well…Diesel can always rev up his opportunistic engines for another money-making race-a-thon that has proved so lucrative for him in the ubiquitous ‘Fast & The Furious’ film franchise that will maintain his hip relevance amongst the doting teenyboppers and gearhead crowd.
1 hr. 59 mins.
Starring: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Jordi Molla, Bokeem Woodbine, Katee Sackhoff and Matt Nable
Directed by: David Twohy
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Science Fiction/Action & Adventure/Fantasy
Critic’s rating: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2013