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Riddick – film review

September 19, 2013


Back to basics.

Reviewed on Friday 13h August 2013


Written & Directed by David Twohy. Starring: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff and Dave Bautista. Running time: 118 minutes.

Left for dead on a desolate predator-infested planet, night vision enhanced outlaw Richrd B. Riddick lures two competing teams of mercenaries to his location in order to pick them off one by one, commandeer a ship and escape off-world.

Eschewing the unexpectedly grand operatics of the previous installment (2004’s The Chronicles Of Riddick), gravelly-voiced nightclub bouncer turned leading man Vin Diesel and writer-director David Twohy have opted instead to scale things back to a much leaner (and meaner) R-rated entry – in what is hoped will develop into a five picture series of Riddick movies. Interestingly, the character of Riddick is actually a re-tooling of the lead protagonist in Twohy’s unfilmed prison breakout script for Alien 3 (an excellent screenplay in its own right and well worth a read).

This installment in the Riddick franchise is essentially three movies in one. It begins as a lone castaway survival story, becomes an exercise in ten little indians (with Riddick himself as the antagonist) and then turns into a full-blown creature feature.     In lesser hands, this radical shifting of tonal gears has the potential to be clunky – however, genre veteren David Twohy (pronounced Too-ee) is too well-versed a filmmaker to let this become an issue.

Slipping comfortably into his signature role, Vin Diesel works well within his range. Katee Sackhoff – best known for her role as the kick-ass, cigar-chomping Starbuck   in TV’s Battlestar Galactica reboot – here again plays another bad-ass (being the only female in a cast of otherwise unknowns). The remainder of the cast range from poor (Jordi Molla) to adequate (Dave Bautista) – with the only performance to make any real impression being that of Australian former Rugby League footballer turned actor Matt Nable (as a mercenary with a link to Riddick’s past) – who is actually very good and a name to watch.

The distinctive gallows humour of the original is back; which nicely off-sets the film’s more gruesome aspects and Twohy clearly knows how to stage effective action scenes and create tension. The film is well-paced with a screenplay generally free from the glaring contrivances which have plagued virtually every one of this year’s prestige big screen genre films – although there is one dubious plot contrivance involving fuel cells locked in an explosively-armed cabinet which threatens to derail the movie – but thankfully it quickly recovers. And unlike those other blockbusters     in 2013’s Big Screen Summer Of Wholesale Destruction (Man Of Steel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Star Trek Into Darkness) – there are no thinly-veiled references to 9-11     or terrorism (enough already!) – which is refreshing.

As evidenced with not only Riddick, but also his screenwriting work on such films     as Waterworld – Twohy is a consummate world-builder. He shows great flare in integrating the unique attributes of his sci-fi settings into his stories (environmental transitions being a specialty) – and utilizing them to propel the narrative. Examples of this abound: the transition from blinding daylight to perpetual darkness brings out the beasties in Pitch Black. In The Chronicles Of Riddick, our titular hero must outrun the incinerating rays of sunrise on the aptly-named prison world of Crematoria. And here in Riddick (in an unabashed reprisal of Pitch Black) – an encroaching storm front brings swarms of dormant ‘mud demons’ to life – which then embark on a non-stop feeding frenzy.

The various creature effects here are top-notch – with the stand-out being Riddick’s canine companion, which he adopts and raises to adulthood. Between the nuanced character animation and its interaction with Diesel – this CG animal is (for the most part) surprisingly believable as a real creature. The mud demons, too, are also well-concieved and executed – being particularly fearsome when glimpsed as a swarming, hissing throng – amid flashes of lightning.

Although clearly studio-bound at times, the look of the film is mostly impressive – thanks to the spectacular and beautifully-rendered CG vistas and luminous cinematography by Pitch Black lenser David Eggby. And with a reported budget of just $38 million – Riddick has the look and feel of a far more expensive production.

In what is shaping up to be one of the most consistantly solid and entertaining of     sci-fi action movie franchises, Riddick is enormous fun, which – so long as Twohy remains at the helm – bodes well for the next two promised installments.

3.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Piccadilly Cinemas, North Adelaide, September 13th 2013.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.


From → film reviews

  1. Xenolicker permalink

    I think this movie is riddickulous! (Sorry Greg, i just couldn’t contain myself anymore; just shoot me, i deserve it…)


  2. I’ve not even seen Pitch Black…. Should I bother making a start on these? Not a Vin Diesel fan. Yuuuuuck. 🙂


    • Xenolicker permalink

      I saw Pitch Black… last night… while i was asleep… Vin Diesel? Isn’t he that bald Bruce Willis wannabe. People can change though, i never could stand Nick Cage but lately i can tolerate him. But who changed i ask myself now, he or me?


    • Never been much of a Diesel fan myself. He takes himself waaaay too seriously for my tastes. But if we’re talking tough guys – I much prefer someone along the lines of say Jason Statham – much more fun to watch (particularly in Crank!). As for the Riddick franchise – Pitch Black is excellent – well worth checking out. It was filmed here in the South Aussie outback and was one of the first Hollywood roles for Radha Mitchell. Oh yeah, and Keith David’s in it too. 🙂


  3. The trailer looked like a reboot of Pitch Black and turned me right off it (not ANOTHER reboot! I thought).Maybe I was misled. Might be worth a look then.


    • gregory moss permalink

      It is definitely a direct sequel to the last picture and even though it’s back to basics (in a good way), it still has enough original stuff in there to warrant a look … 🙂


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