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Riddick (2013)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

RIDDICK (2013)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine

Written and Directed By: David Twohy

The Short Version

The promised third chapter in the Riddick trilogy will apparently have to wait.

If you’re looking for new and original, you won’t find it here.

That said, sometimes a mediocre rehash is perfectly fine and perfectly fun.

Katee Sackhoff is a welcome addition here.

If you’re looking for straight-up elimination action, you could do worse than Riddick.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Not exactly elegant, not exactly original, but it’s comfort food.

Pairs Well With...


You’re pretty sure you’ve had this stuff before, only last time, they called it “Coors.”  Not exactly elegant, not exactly original, but hey, it goes down easy enough.

“Don't know how many times I've been crossed off the list and left for dead.  So this... this ain't nothing new.”

As the millennium turned, the world welcomed a new action movie star by the name of Vin Diesel when he hit the bigtime with his surprise hit Pitch Black.  As the scuttlebutt goes, even then, the story of that film’s signature hero, Richard B. Riddick, was presented to the studio as the first part of a trilogy (through the very theatrical device of bringing three screenplay binders into the big pitch meeting, two of which were sealed with padlocks).  Four years later, the second installment of said trilogy hit theatres in the form of The Chronicles of Riddick.  Nine years after that… I’m still waiting for Part Three, but in the meantime, we have this new flick called Riddick instead.

For those who have never seen either Pitch Black or The Chronicles of Riddick, many (though not all) of the frustrations that arise from Riddick are immaterial.  For those people, the important thing to note is that you’re looking for solid elimination-style action (start with a group and end up with few to no survivors), this flick fits the bill nicely.  There’s nothing Earth-shatteringly original here, but there doesn’t need to be.  It satisfies action movie cravings without require too many brain cells to fire in the process, and you honestly don’t need to know anything about what’s come before to get the most important points about what’s going on in this chapter.  So if comfort action is all you’re after, here ya go.  Have fun.

As for the fans who read the line about not needing to have seen what’s come before and said “uh-oh…”

Those of us who watched the previous two films knew what had to come next: Riddick’s journey to Furya.  As this film begins, Riddick thinks so, too, giving up supreme leadership of the Necromongers within the first few minutes for what he’s told is a one way flight to his mysterious homeworld.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out for a trick, but Riddick is duped and left to rot on a desolate planet with little to show for itself but a bunch of man-eating predators.  (Even he can’t believe he falls for such an obvious con, but let’s call this little plot point out for what it is: the cheapest, easiest mechanism to get him away from the position of absolute power he had at the end of the previous movie and back to zero in the smallest number of screen minutes possible.)  Eventually, he finds an emergency beacon and uses it to draw the attention of two groups of bounty hunters, intending to steal himself a ride off his newfound hellhole from any fool kind enough to bring him one.  What follows is a rehash of elements from the previous movies – especially Pitch Black – that plays as a by-the-numbers elimination game, with bonus wildlife.  As for Furya, it’s nowhere to be seen.  Maybe next time.

That’s why I’m still waiting for the promised third part of the trilogy, because this definitely is not it.  Instead, Riddick plays much like the animated Dark Fury did years ago: an interlude between the “real” movies that fills in a few details of what happened between credit rolls.  I can’t help but wonder if Vin Diesel – who scored the rights to produce this himself in exchange for a cameo shot in The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift – looked at the budget he was being offered and knew that he couldn’t do Furya justice on that kind of money and therefore decided to make the movie he could make while the chance was there to make anything at all, throwing in a few references to the first film to keep loyal fans happy.  Granted, that’s just speculation on my part, but honestly, it’s all I can think of that fits.

Because really, nothing in Riddick – I hate this title, by the way; they really should have keep the original The Chronicles of Riddick: Dead Man Stalking – does anything to advance our (anti)hero’s story; indeed, it’s a regressive backslide that undoes a lot of the interesting stuff that happened in the previous film and gives us back the Marty Stu archetype we started with in Pitch Black, only flatter.  And maybe taking a few more testosterone supplements.

On the other hand, as long as you’re willing to accept that the only thing being sharpened about the title character is his sense of sarcasm while he tweaks one of the bounty hunters who desperately wants to know how the first movie ended (seriously), the flat Marty Stu stuff is perfectly okay.  Why?  Because while the core Richard B. Riddick story may have been left on the shelf for this one, Vin Diesel and Writer/Director David Twohy still remember to make a decent dark action flick, and in that kind of game, developed characters are optional.

In their place, we have Riddick being a Badass of Doom.  He’s allowed to break his leg near the start of the movie just so the audience can see how tough he is using some boulders and castoff armor to set it and splint it.  Then he eviscerates a giant swimming scorpion thing that’s three times as big as he is using a handmade naginata.  He tames a wild dog-like creature by showing it that he’s a bigger badass than it is.  As for how Riddick takes down a bounty hunter with his own machete even though Riddick himself is still bound to chair… well, some things you’ve just got to see for yourself.  After all, it’s scenes like that which are the entire reason that Riddick and movies like it exist; everything else is just setup.  It’s all about muscles and explosions and blood and monsters and ass whooping.  It’s the 80s and 90s all over again; hallelujah and pass the beer!

That’s why however thin the story may be, if you’re an old style action fan, you’ll get it, and you’ll be happy.  For those who want something more, your best bet is to pay attention to Katee Sackhoff as the bounty hunting troupe’s resident sniper, Dahl, making a strong case that she’s all set to transition from the television fame of “Battlestar Galactica” to action movie stardom a-la Milla Jovovich.  The frat boys in the audience might spend all of their energy trying to decide whether or not she used a body double for the topless scene, but those with greater vision can see a tough performance that outshines Mr. Diesel whenever the two share screen time, and a performer trying her damndest to squeeze some life into a character that the script desperately wants to keep one-dimensional.  In the end, Sackhoff beats the script, and Dahl beats up everything that stands in her way.  Both results are extremely satisfying to watch, and I really hope there’s more where that came from. 

Just like I really hope that the mythical padlocked third binder that contains an actual Furya script for Mr. Riddick is still out there waiting to be opened and put to film.  While this Riddick is a satisfying enough action distraction – well worth the price of theatre admission for genre fans despite its flaws – it’s still not the movie we’ve all been waiting to see.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, September, 2013

More From The Bar! | Resident Evil: Retribution | Pacific Rim | Alien 3 | Dredd |

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