These days, it appears that if Vin Diesel didn't have the "Fast & Furious" or "Riddick" movies to work on, he wouldn't be working at all.
But thanks to his appearance in "The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift" in 2006 and a shrewd deal with Universal Pictures to take the rights to the character over pay; coupled with the blockbuster successes of the last two "Fast & Furious" movies, the studio could hardly say no to becoming a partner in this latest venture.
"Riddick" finds the anti-hero title character (Diesel) back in a familiar environment, a sun-scorched planet where he has to battle all sorts of creatures in order to survive. But dingo-like space dogs and mutated, venomous creatures aren't the only things that puts the deadly ex-con in peril.
After being duped to go to the planet so the underlings of Necromonger Vaako (Karl Urban, in a two-minute cameo after a starring role in the last film) can execute him, the lethally-skilled Furyan space warrior dispatches the bad guys, only to be targeted again by a band of mercenaries. Also hunting the opaque-eyed Riddick is a military group led by Johns (Matt Nable), who is desperate to get answers regarding the death of his son (Cole Hauser) during the events of "Pitch Black."
See my review of "Riddick" on "KARE 11 News at 11" with Diana Pierce below.
"Riddick" is remarkable, if for not any other reason, because it's the third film in the "Riddick" trilogy that began with "Pitch Black" in 2000. And while the first film was impressive and earned money, the second, 2004's "The Chronicles of Riddick," struggled at the box office -- dooming the prospect of a third until Diesel's newfound success in the latter "Fast & Furious" movies.
The interesting thing is, you really don't have to have seen either of the first two films to get what's going on in the third.
It's admirable that Diesel is trying to create his own mythology with the "Riddick" trilogy -- along with David Twohy, who directed all three films and co-wrote two of them -- and there's no question he has a great handle on the character. The problem is, it's not that complicated of a character to begin with, and even though he commands the screen with his low, grumbling voice and killer moves (plus, the dude has hardly aged!), the dialogue is stupid and the action is run-of-the-mill at best.
Plus, 13 years after the first film debuted, Diesel is now the victim of genre that has long-overstayed its welcome. Most interplanetary sci-fi films feel the same these days with whiz-bang effects, cool vehicles and slimy creatures, and "Riddick," despite an impressive visual landscape -- which is striking in IMAX -- does little to set itself apart from other films in the genre.
If "Riddick" has anything going for it, it's a fine sense of humor, mostly coming from the film's over-the-top bad guy, Santana (Spanish film star Jordi Molla), and quips from proudly lesbian Dahl ("Battlestar Galactica" stunner Katee Sackhoff), who kicks the homophobic Santana's butt at every turn.
There are also plenty bits of gore, which will either find fans cringing or laughing, or both at the same time. The bad guys are instructed to bring Riddick's head home in a box, and even though you can see a gory gag coming from a mile away, it's still shockingly funny when one of the ne'er do-wells meets his inevitable fate.
Of course, it's not a big spoiler to reveal that it wasn't Riddick's head that ends up in the box, and the space hatch swings wide-open for another sequel as the film concludes. If Diesel does indeed choose to go that route, let's hope there's a lot more creative gas in the tank next time around.
Maybe Riddick could lead a heist with fast cars on a different planet? Couldn't be any worse than the horrid "Fast & Furious 6," and it's right in Diesel's wheelhouse.
"Riddick," rated R, 2 stars out of four.
See the trailer for "Riddick" below.
What other local critics are saying ...
Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press gives "Riddick" 2 1/2 stars, calling it "stupid, but entertaining."