September 08, 2013

Riddick

I see that gleam in your eyes

Grade: C -
Director: David Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Jordi Mollà, Matt Nable and Katee Sackhoff
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 59 min.

It’s apropos that Riddick, a movie about an antihero who can see in the dark, is a murky, muddled mess. Writer-director David Twohy and Vin Diesel reteam for their third entry in the Riddick film series, this time reverting back to the stripped-down, R-rated basics of Pitch Black.  But, while Twohy and Diesel are trodding familiar ground, this time it feels like they’re just going through the motions.

Flashbacked contrivance summarily strips Riddick (Diesel) of the Lord Marshalship won at the conclusion of The Chronicles of Riddick and lands him on a sun-scorched, desolate planet where the indigenous dangers range from snarling dingos to venomous scorpion/lizard beasts. Needing a ride off the weatherbeaten rock, Riddick activates a homing beacon for bounty hunters that attracts two sets of mercenaries. One, led by Santana (Jordi Moll√†), is a hardscrabble bunch there to collect Riddick’s bounty-laden head. The other, steered by Boss Johns (Matt Nable) and the sexy but sassy Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), have more personal motivations.

Unfortunately, Riddick seems more like a self-parody than a sequel. It starts with Riddick’s faux-Frank Miller first-person narration, which fills the opening third before suddenly disappearing. When Riddick isn’t battling or domesticating CG creatures, he’s playing the part of Predator to the paramilitary humans.

It’s sadly telling when a computer-generated space dog has more charm and personality than your lead actor. While Diesel’s deficients were papered over by eye-popping Fx and a large, likeable cast in the surprisingly entertaining Fast & Furious 6, the overcooked bravado and marble-mouthed mumblings become more detrimental once they absorb the limelight. It doesn’t help that Twohy’s dialogue, as translated by Diesel and the rest of the monosyllabic and somewhat misused cast, sounds for all the world like the English dub of a bad spaghetti Western.

Indeed, the plodding pace of this would-be sci fi Western makes Riddick feel like it’s not as much stuck in the mud as mired in quicksand. And for a film so dependant on digital effects, the visuals are shockingly subfusc and uninteresting. If anything, the film reminds us that—suggestions to the contrary—it’s misplaced to (ever) declare a Vin Diesel comeback.

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