In Riddick, Vin Diesel returns to his cult favorite role as Richard B. Riddick in a lean, gritty flick that returns to the franchise’s roots. This movie is very much Diesel’s project and he reportedly worked for scale in order to get the project green-lighted.
We first met the convict Richard B. Riddick in Pitch Black, a small sci-fi horror flick with a cool premise that came out of nowhere. Diesel’s performance as Riddick won audiences over not in theatres but on DVD, paving the way for the inflated Chronicles of Riddick. Though making more money theatrically (though not enough to warrant a direct sequel), Chronicles of Riddick felt almost nothing like Pitch Black. Riddick was no longer a cunning killer, but someone who lunged headfirst into danger while relying almost exclusively on brutality to vanquish his foes. Chronicles of Riddick ends with [SPOILER ALERT!] Riddick accidentally becoming the ruler of a violent alien race and beginning the search for his home planet of Furya.
Written and directed by David Twohy and produced by Diesel, this latest installment begins with Riddick beaten and alone on a hostile plant, and forced to survive against numerous creatures that seem intent on eating him. We are soon treated to a quick five minute synopsis of how he came to be stranded here after being essentially a king. This set up is simple and clever, and our movie returns to a straight up survival tale pitting Riddick against the harsh terrain and creatures of this unnamed planet. Eventually Riddick finds an emergency beacon and activates it. He is instantly identified as a convict with a bounty on his head and squads of bounty hunters take to the planet to capture him dead, he’s worth more that way.
From this point on the movie really blasts off, as Riddick stalks and dispatches his would be killers. While Riddick is still a physical presence in the movie, it’s refreshing to see him use his cunning and avoid direct confrontation whenever possible. Soon the outpost area is attacked by the unfriendly hungry creatures from earlier, and Riddick is forced to join forces with those foes he hasn’t killed yet.
Riddick is an unapologetic bloody B-movie blast. The film sports terrifically pulpy dialogue, nearly all of death threats between the cast. The action set pieces are clever and it’s a great return to form for Riddick. The original film works well, but it first sequel is just too big. In this third chapter, David Twohy’s direction creates a terrifically desolate atmosphere teeming with tension, because anyone can be killed in horrific ways that are difficult to see coming. And Twohy shoots his action pieces with longer shots, so we can follow each blow.
The cast is solid though not many stand out against Diesel’s gruff voice and imposing figure stealing every scene. Fan favorite Katee Sackhoff nearly succeeds, but this is Diesel’s show. Equal parts gritty survival tale and monster movie wrapped in Sci-Fi, this is the type of movie I wish there were more of.