Vin Diesel's Riddick Not Fast, Not Furious, and Not Much Fun
- Friday, September 06, 2013
Release Date: September 6, 2013
Rating: R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity
Run Time: 119 min.
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine, Karl Urban
When a movie titled after a character’s name is more interesting when that character isn’t on screen, that’s a problem.
Such a problem surfaces in Riddick, the latest entry in the series about an escaped convict (the title character, played by Vin Diesel, Fast & Furious 6) that began with Pitch Black (2000) and carried over to The Chronicles of Riddick (2004). After a lengthy, meandering reintroduction of the main character, Riddick finally gathers a bit of momentum when it shifts its focus to a group of feisty, overconfident bounty hunters who are determined to capture Riddick and return him, dead or alive. It’s enough to resuscitate the film and carry it to its drawn-out conclusion, but it’s not enough to overcome the violent, predictable nature of the entire slog.
“There are bad days, and then there are legendary bad days,” Riddick says in voiceover. Guess which kind of day he’s having? Sent to an arid planet with slim prospects for survival, Riddick still has some fight in him. He uses his energy to fend off menacing hyena-like beasts and other life forms both in the water and on land.
Danger abounds for our lonely protagonist until he converts one threatening beast into a friendly, obedient pet. The animal is good for a few chuckles, but the movie’s story sputters and stalls while we watch Riddick try to relate to another living creature.
After a half hour or so of Riddick’s wanderings, the movie shifts its story to a crew of potential captors who respond to an emergency beacon activated by Riddick. It’s here that Riddick starts to show some life, if only because the villainous, unapologetic character of Santana (Jordi Molla) is so ridiculously over the top. There’s also the more grounded—and gradually more mission-conflicted—Johns (Matt Nable). Dahl (Katee Sackhoff, TV's Battlestar Gallactica) adds some spark and spunk to the testosterone-fueled cast, even though she’s repeatedly put in the uncomfortable position of having to fend off advances by the movie’s male characters. At one point, she makes it crystal clear that she has no romantic interest in men, although the movie fumbles its treatment of Dahl’s sexuality by having her respond favorably to Riddick’s attempts to objectify her.
Most of the crew is one-dimensional, which makes their deaths impersonal and unemotional (the audience at a preview screening laughed and applauded one character’s graphic death—a response more disturbing than anything in Riddick). But alongside Riddick, those characters seem positively complex and well-developed.
To survive the harsh elements, the mercenaries and Riddick will have to take measure of each other and find their way to a safer place.
Riddick offers nothing new and plays like a poor man's Aliens. Diesel can't carry a film the way Sigourney Weaver did in Aliens, but like Weaver's film, Riddick has some fun supporting performances. Visually, Riddick doesn't stand out from the pack of similar sci-fi films it resembles, but visuals are the least of the film's problems.
Why are we supposed to care about Riddick's fate? The movie doesn’t even try to answer that question. Its star gets upstaged by the supporting cast, and its special effects are routine. That's not the recipe for a franchise; it's the recipe for a flop. But we all like junk food sometimes, and Riddick certainly qualifies. The film provides momentary pleasures while being consumed, but you know you're ingesting nutrition-free content that will leave you feeling queasy and mostly unsatisfied. Better to choose healthier options.
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