For the first time since 2009, Vin Diesel has left the world of fast cars and gorgeous women to reprise his role as an escaped convict from another planet in David Twohy’s “Riddick.”
He probably would have been better off making “Fast and Furious 16.”
Here, though, “Riddick” serves as passable science fiction only in its final act; when the story keeps a steady pace and the action scenes are actually action-packed. The first two hours of the film, though, are bogged down by a dragged-out plot and a jumble of random, forgettable supporting characters.
For those unfamiliar with the series, “Riddick” is the third film about the fearless, nearly blind criminal Richard B. Riddick (Diesel). The previous two, 2000’s “Pitch Black” and 2004’s “The Chronicles of Riddick,” center on his run from the law, as he outsmarts bloodthirsty creatures and defeats any poor soul foolish enough to pick a fight with him.
Needless to say, Riddick is an outer space action anti-hero if there ever was one.
But his latest adventure just doesn’t do him justice. Diesel brings a tough guy attitude and reasonable amount of wit (despite a script that cosmically fails in its struggles for comic relief). It’s a typical Vin Diesel performance: by no means spectacular, but certainly admirable given the ridiculousness that surrounds him.
When Riddick finds himself abandoned on a desert planet, his daily routine consists of talking to himself, raising his pet mutant dog, and fighting hostile alien animals. Add to that incredibly bleak scenery, and the film’s entire first hour is nothing but mind-numbing drudgery.
When he begins scouring the planet for a way to get home, Riddick finds an abandoned fuel station and activates an emergency beacon. Two groups of bounty hunters come to finish him off: a band of misfits led by Santana (Jordi Mollà) and a more professional outfit headed by Boss Johns (Matt Nable). At this point, Riddick completely disappears from the movie while the bounty hunters bicker about who gets to kill him. Unfortunately, even this change of scenery can’t breathe life into the plot.
The action finally picks up when the bounty hunters pursue Riddick and end up working with him to battle giant scorpion-like creatures. The shootouts and chase sequences are actually pretty exciting, but they come far too late to redeem the deadly dull two hours that preceded them.
“Riddick” is uneven and ultimately predictable—at times feeling more like a random collection of scenes than a cohesive film—made even more painful by the story’s agonizingly slow pace and supporting cast’s scenery chewing.
Whether it’s open lesbian Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), who inexplicably falls in love with Riddick in the end, or young Luna (Nolan Gerard Funk), who prays to angels whenever a plan goes south, no one who surrounds Riddick is all that interesting or worth rooting for (or against, for that matter).
“Riddick” is nowhere near as cool as its title character, and while it will no doubt please hardcore fans of the series, it will simply bore almost everyone else.
** out of five