Thirteen years after the debut of Riddick, the silvery eyed space criminal made relatively famous by chrome-domed franchise junkie Vin Diesel, David Twohy was enlisted to bring back his creation in the aptly named Riddick. When we last saw the knife wielding goggle enthusiast he had managed to become the ruler of a cult of intergalactic nihilists who dressed like a Swedish death metal band in 2004’s limp sequel; The Chronicles Of Riddick. While that movie essentially undid most of the good work built up by Pitch Black, Diesel (possibly by sheer will alone) managed to get another space faring and brutal adventure made off the back of his ludicrously lucrative Fast & Furious franchise.
We rejoin Riddick abandoned and badly injured on an absurdly hostile planet where every facet of it’s eco system seems to aggressively want to kill him (the first 10 minutes of the film is literally Diesel wordlessly fending off attacks from various CGI beasties). We learn that that Giger obsessed death cult of Necromongers that Riddick became the king of in the last movie “shockingly” turned on him when he desired to seek his long lost home world – apparently he was also supposed to take a vow of celibacy which got in the way of his orgies and that created friction (no pun intended) – and so to sharpen his dulled edge, decides to live like an animal on the barren, dangerous world he finds himself on.
He does pretty well, resetting a broken leg in a way that definitely doesn’t meet up to any existing health guidelines and recuperating by burying himself alive; Riddick finally gets himself back up to fighting strength, raises a wild, space dingo from a pup and continues living as some sort of post apocalyptic version of One Psycho & His Space Dog.
However, his solitude comes to an end when not one, but two groups of bounty hunters land on the planet literally looking to claim his head for a sizable bounty – typical isn’t it, you wait for ages for a marauding band of hunters to arrive and then two turn up at once…
One group sport sweaty, greasy fringes and are decidedly untrustworthy; the other are a more professional bunch but both seem uncomfortably loaded with more testosterone to give King Kong a panic attack and so Riddick decides to work smart and not hard and has these guys at each others throats in no time, but the leader of the smarter of the two hunters has more personal reasons to take this bounty; a reason that goes back over ten years to a certain planet where night falls during an eclipse and toothy nightmares lurk in the dark.
Coincidentally, this planet ALSO has a lethal indigenous species that only surfaces during special occasions (in this case rain) and so everyone – including Riddick – has to start playing nice before they are up to their eyeballs in giant, scorpion tailed, carnivorous lizards that have been fasting for way too long.
As I’ve stated elsewhere, I’ve always preferred Riddick to Vin Diesel’s other rogue’s gallery as the dude – thanks to the fact that he’s a socially distanced lunatic – is the only one to actually earn the sometimes irritating superiority complex the actor always seems to infuse his characters with. The film opens with large stretches of film that is solely dedicated to Vin going out of his way to prove what an uncompromising badass he is by inserting screws into a shattered bone by hand and taming this ridiculously hostile landscape by mostly glaring at it and to give the film it’s credit, giving Riddick all this alone time proves to be a smart thing as the survivalist stuff is actually the most interesting thing in the movie by far.
Things take a noticable slump when the cast list balloons with the arrival of the bounty hunters, all of whom seem to be constantly thinking with their dicks and spit out bizarre lines of dialogue such as:
“Where did you get that theory from, a unicorn’s ass?” and “What are we playing here, retard bingo?”.
I LOVE dialogue that springs from a script that’s taking the piss out of overwhelming male machismo (take everything Jessie Ventura says in Predator for example) but Twohy saturates the movie in it until it’s all some characters ever say. It wouldn’t be that wearisome if it wasn’t for the fact that the script essentially has it’s main character drop out of his own movie for a spell as we get to know these assorted groups of lugnuts, who are far less interesting that the man stalking them.
It’s not for the want of trying; fan favourites Dave Bautista and Katee Sackhoff – better known for OTHER sci-fi shenanigans such as Guardians Of The Galaxy and Battlestar Galactica – fare well although the latter has a disturbing sub-plot about everyone challenging her implied lesbianism with frequent promises of “a good fucking” which involves a rape attempt and Riddick complimenting her on the colour of her nipples… even more head scratching is that Riddick’s line of seduction actually seems to work which raises all sorts of questions that I’m way too unqualified to answer here.
However, every now and then the movie’s pumped up masculinity coughs up a loogie of greatness – Riddick’s causal, 5 second decapitation of a man despite being handcuffed is frankly spectacular and watching him jump a hover-bike – that roars like the loudest Harley you’ve ever heard – over a sea of giant, chittering, space scorpions, is pure Sci-fi/action cinema in a nutshell.
And yet the movie constantly reverts too much to “tough-guy” mode, which is actually tough to maintain while keeping a straight face. Riddick referring to someone as a “jamoke” after splitting him in half despite it being the 28th century is just awkward as it’s probably the present day equivalent of a forty-something enthusiastically announcing something as “sick” without a shred of irony.
But while it’s lost a fair amount of the charm that Pitch Black had (which had a far more varied cast for the space monsters to chew on) it’s still way more fun than Riddick’s second outing and if you watch it as a latter day Rambo movie set in space (think the 4th one) it’s a perfectly enjoyable return for a legitimately interesting anti-hero even if the script seems to be thinking mainly with it’s (Rid)dick…