Film review of ‘Riddick’: A Riddick-ulous return: Diesel’s vehicle stalls
Vin diesel is good at several things. One is making weak dialogue seem perfectly acceptable with his gravelly voice – a skill his co-stars sadly do not share – while another, as we learn from said voice, is returning from the dead. Pitch Black (2000) was a critical flop that blossomed into a beloved cult hit, followed by an overblown sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), which turned out worse than the first film. So it’s something of a surprise to find director Twohy returning with a third, albeit pared-down instalment nine years later.
The film starts promisingly enough, with Riddick (Diesel) informing us he’s been left to die in a hostile alien world and must rediscover his animal instinct to survive. His process of achieving this is oddly contradictory (he domesticates a wild dog), but the first, dialogue-free half-hour spent fighting aliens and the elements is relatively enjoyable. Eventually Riddick finds a bunker and sends a distress signal into space. Being a wanted man with a considerable price on his head, Riddick attracts a band of bounty hunters and a team of mercenaries, both eager to claim him as their prize.
With the titular rogue then disappearing for much of the film’s middle section, we’re left in generically macho company as these two groups duke it out for rights over their mutual prey. Sackhoff’s presence as Dahl, a second-in-command mercenary, is notable as both the only speaking female role and the most credible talent on screen. For fans of the series Battlestar Galactica (2004 version), Sackhoff remains a sci-fi icon, thanks to the warmth and vitality she brought to her role as Starbuck. Sadly her character here is handled poorly by the writers, who use Dahl’s sexuality as a source of schoolboy gags. Still, Sackhoff does her best with very little. Elsewhere there are characters of singular dimensions, who despite being small in number, are so indistinctive that they merge into one another. Much of the running time is spent waiting for these armed bozos to wise up to signposted narrative twists, as everything plays out with plodding predictability and only the occasional flash of invention.
Dir: David Twohy; USA/UK sci-fi/action, 2013, 119 mins; Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Bokeem Woodbine, Katee Sackhoff
Premiered September 26