Awaking half-dead on an unknown barren planet inhabited by various deadly beasts, Riddick (Vin Diesel), the last of a warrior race from the planet Furyan and a wanted fugitive, must somehow escape the scorched earth. But his first battle is simply to survive. Harnessing anything that comes to hand, he traverses the dusty plains and reaches an old outpost. Here he alerts the authorities to his presence in the hope of stealing a ride back to civilisation. But when two rival groups of bounty hunters arrive – one of them with a personal score to settle – the weather begins to turn and the biggest threat both to the mercenaries and Riddick is no longer each other.
Despite its plot holes, misogyny and ungainly ending, ‘Riddick’ is a thoroughly entertaining slab of action sci-fi that offers little in the way of surprises but an absorbing primitive world and exhilarating set-pieces. Presented with a sun-bleached sepia tint it has a distinctive look that really brings the universe to life and gives it a nice cohesive identity. In fact all of the design details are well handled, from inventive creatures shaped with tangible visual effects to plenty of pleasing costume and weapon details. It’s all very derivative, but a degree of attention has obviously been shown to all these aspects and as a result the whole experience is markedly more satisfying, enabling the film to get away with more than it might.
Vin Diesel does all the deep growling and grunting required, and nails the delivery of the – frankly ludicrous – comicbook dialogue. He’s an unusual, brutish screen presence who, although plainly wooden, always brings some timeless leading man charisma to every picture. In the film’s opening movements for example he is required to carry proceedings in near silence as Riddick finds his way around this dangerous planet alone, going native in order to survive. This is far and away the film’s highlight, with a real earthy feeling of adventure and mystery that is wholly compelling. Unfortunately, after this strong start the rest of the film fails to live up to its promise, becoming fairly generic and predictable. Not to say it isn’t enjoyable: ‘Riddick’ holds some great pacing and rips through all the formulaic stuff with such confidence and brashness it’s only on reflection its flaws appear. While the wild ride of aliens, gore and Vin Diesel is in progress, there is far too much entertainment to be had to worry about character development, or boring old rationality.
Fundamentally a contemporary B-movie with a decent budget, ‘Riddick’ delivers in every way it needs to, with a continual sense of fun and exhilarating thrills. Most of it will swiftly be forgotten, but its opening third is so inventive and well-shaped it deserves to sit – slightly – above other genre fare.
[ 2013 — Dir: David Twohy — 119 mins — 15 cert — IMDb ]
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