For a film with characters who sound like they’re named Ridick, Wacko, and Doll, it’s amazing that the cast of Riddick can keep a straight face. Of course, Vin Diesel movies aren’t exactly known for their comedy, but when his latest work lightens up for a minute, the results are oddly charming. Mind you, these are mere temporary distractions from the mayhem and brutality that otherwise comprise the third chapter in David Twohy’s sci-fi series. Fans of the story that began with 2000’s Pitch Black are certainly used to that style, but for viewers looking for basic thrills, a mostly cold and uninspired time awaits.
Left for dead on a wasteland planet after a power grab by Vakko (Karl Urban, who apparently had 15 free minutes one afternoon), Riddick (Diesel) fights to survive against fairly interesting looking creatures. On the lower end of danger are a kind of mutant hyena, one of which he snatches as a pup and raises on his own. In this Vin Diesel’s Canine Obedience School section, some genuine interspecies comradery arises and the story gains some unexpected humanity. The good times are short-lived, however, with the threat of a scorpion-like beheamoth in the planet’s limited water supply, whose mass rising from an approaching storm forces Riddick to activate an emergency beacon from an abandoned station.
Leading up to the confrontation with those that answer the call, Riddick‘s pace moves well enough until, as what usually happens in a Diesel film, his macho one-noteness wears thin. Give or take, that’s typically at the 45 minute mark, as it is here when the character list experiences a sudden growth spurt. Sadly, hope for the spice of new blood is thwarted when the arrivals are little more than the usual arrangement of futuristic malcontents. Sadistic Santana (Jordi Mollà) plans to put Riddick’s head in a glass box; Boss Johns (Matt Nable) seeks revenge on Riddick for his son’s death; and brusk lesbian sniper Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) is there to…umm…well, other than fill the female quota, she’s just sort of there.
Riding around on the land cruisers from Return of the Jedi, the dwindling number of survivors are thrown together in ways they didn’t expect, yet aren’t that surprising. Mostly, their adventures are a grab bag of inventive deaths and confusing, sometimes mysteriously soundless action sequences. Further lessening the film is the lack of a likable character, including the bald muscle man himself, whose eerie promised to go “balls deep” on Dahl puts the film on even shakier ground. Along with Diesel’s basic charismatic shortcomings, such hangups do the film few favors, but with a decent sci-fi imagination and a story that refuses to die, it passes.
Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity.
Riddick is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.