Riddick

Stranded on a barren, hostile planet by Vaako (Karl Urban) of the Necromongers, Riddick (Vin Diesel) struggles to survive.  There are two large predators on the planet:  One is a dog-like creature that is about the size of a Great Dane and the other is a mud-dwelling, two-legged lizard with a poisonous barbed tail and very large teeth.  Riddick wants off the world badly and is willing to risk exposing his location to any bounty hunters in the area.  Finding a communications base used by the mercenaries, Riddick activates the emergency beacon and identifies himself as the occupant.  Soon, two ships arrive.  First is a ragtag group led by Santana (Jordi Molla) that is quickly joined by the better equipped, more disciplined group led by Boss Johns (Matt Nable).  Since he was there first, Santana claims Riddick as his own.  Johns doesn’t disagree too much and says he has a few questions for Riddick but after that Santana can have him.  Riddick is hiding out, watching the mercenaries, waiting for his opportunity.  He’s laid out traps in various locations that take out one of Santana’s men.  He kills two more by hand which leads Santana to ask for Johns help.  Johns takes command and puts his second, Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) over Santana and his remaining men.  Riddick steals one power cell from each ship making it impossible for either group to leave and offers a compromise:  The mercenaries can have a power cell and leave in one ship and he takes the other.  Riddick knows there’s a storm coming and they need to get off the planet before it strikes.  The rains will soak the ground, causing hibernating lizard creatures to awaken by the thousands.  If they don’t leave, none of them will survive.
 
While the character of Riddick has been the star of two other movies, “Pitch Black” and “The Chronicles of Riddick,” he usually is the least interesting character of the bunch.  We’ve been told he can see in very low light because he paid a prison doctor to polish his corneas.  We know he’s a killer with a bounty on his head that’s higher if he’s brought in dead.  We also know he’s a killing machine based on the body counts from his films.  What we don’t know is anything about Riddick:  How did he get this way?  Who did he kill?  Was he set up?  Is he a covert operative abandoned by his handlers?  Is he killing out of revenge for the death of his family, his world, his race?  Is he just cranky and needs his wooby?  Who knows?!  Certainly not the audience and perhaps not the film’s makers either.  “Riddick” is very good at giving us implausible battles between one man and a world that’s trying to consume him with CGI creatures both familiar and unique.  Unfortunately, it’s all things we’ve seen before.  That’s what “Pitch Black” is all about.  While I’m sure no one can tell you what “The Chronicles of Riddick” is about, there’s some of that in there as well.  With this third go round, while significantly better than the last, it’s the same story…again.  We get it!  He can get out of any situation and is able to dispatch his enemies with relative ease but he’s actually a softie at heart, caring about children and abandoned puppies.  That’s great but why is he that way?  There are probably two or three movies worth of backstory for this character that would likely be more interesting than anything in these films so far.
 
While I fault the film on a lack of original storytelling, I give it props for unique ways of killing off characters with two deaths standing out.  I won’t give away too much but I will warn anyone who gets nauseated watching films of actual surgeries to perhaps avert your eyes during one kill near the end of the film.  It is perhaps the most graphic, brutal and entertaining way for a character to die I’ve ever seen.  It brought to mind the epic sword fight at the end of “Kill Bill, Vol. 1” only turned up to 11.  It helps that his particular character is completely unlikable and any bad thing that happens to him is his own fault.
 
The cast does a good enough job in roles that don’t ask much of them.  Vin Diesel does what he always does; look badass and speak in a gravely bass.  Much of his acting is done with a CGI dog that is way more expressive than his character.  There are some nice comedic turns from the supporting cast, especially former professional wrestler Dave Bautista.  His low energy delivery of lines adds to their effect.  Katee Sackhoff plays yet another hard-as-nails character similar to her role on the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica.”  She does that kind of thing well but I would imagine she’d like roles more diverse than an ass kicking soldier.  The rest of the cast does a good job of taking on nondescript parts, most of who will wind up dead by the end.
 
“Riddick” is rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity.  There is a great deal of violence ranging from mild to unbelievably gory.  Most if it is directed at humans while some is against the CGI beasties.  There are two scenes of gratuitous nudity:  One involving three or four nude women in a bed and the other a brief view of Katee Sackhoff as she bathes.  Neither does anything to move the story along and both could have been cut or shot differently.  Foul language is common throughout the film.
 
“Riddick” likely marks the end of the line for the character unless it does huge international business; then we will see yet another version of Vin Diesel’s character shooting, slicing and dicing his way through another group of bounty hunters.  While the third time isn’t exactly the charm in this case, it is certainly enough.  Figure out what to do with this Furyian that is more interesting than just killing and maybe I’ll buy another ticket.  Otherwise, I’ll pass.
 
“Riddick” gets three guitars out of five.
 
What will I review next?  That is entirely up to you.  Vote for the next film I see.
 
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Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choosing in theatres or On Demand.
 
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