‘Riddick’ review: Vin Diesel returns in this violent, but fun, sci-fi thriller


Vin Diesel in a scene from "Riddick," a Universal Pictures release. (AP)
September 5, 2013

Twelve years after bringing the grunting, crazy-eyed and muscle-bound Riddick to life in the sci-fi thriller “Pitch Black,” Vin Diesel reunites with director David Twohy for a third installment, a more complicated film with a simple title: “Riddick.”

As the movie opens, Riddick, an escaped convict with silvery eyes and permanent night vision, finds himself stuck on a foreign planet where he’s been left for dead by one of his many enemies. Riddick is horribly injured with a compound fracture, but it turns out one of his many talents is DIY medicine. He makes himself a cast using just armor and nails, which he screws into his own leg. Grotesque as it is, the scene is a mere amuse-bouche for the bloodshed to come.

The planet is a doozy, with maniacal dogs and giant scorpions, but Riddick has a keen sense of survival, so he makes a nice little life for himself and his new pet, a killer puppy. But deep down, Riddick just wants to return to his home planet of Furya. Knowing he has a bounty on his head, he broadcasts his whereabouts to lure mercenaries, whose ship he plans to steal.

Sure enough, two competing groups land and start their hunt. The first is led by an idiotic hothead named Santana (Jordi Mollà), whose comeuppance is all but ensured by his arrogance. The other team falls under the more likable Johns (Matt Nable), whose motives are mysterious. He is more interested in talking to Riddick than killing him and collecting a reward.

What ensues is a movie that’s more about these two groups than about the title character. Riddick sets off a game of cat-and-mouse, only there are two cats and the mouse remains in the shadows. Riddick must be unacquainted with Occam’s Razor — the idea that the right solution is usually the simplest one — because he solves problems in the most elaborate ways possible. There is solid evidence he could dispatch his attackers while bound and blindfolded, but Riddick prefers to create intricate scenarios. He may not be in a huge rush to get home after all.

“Riddick” can be cheesy and silly, not to mention excessively violent, but it’s also fun. The story moves quickly along, and even when the outcome is plain, the journey remains entertaining. Diesel looks like an oaf but makes for a winning anti-hero. It’s almost enough to make you wonder what he could accomplish if he stopped reprising the same roles again and again in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, not to mention this series. Regardless, this probably isn’t the last we’ll see of Riddick.

Riddick

★★½

(119 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for language, sex, nudity, violence and gore.

Washington-area native Stephanie Merry covers movies, theater and art for Weekend and the Going Out Guide. She’s also the section’s de facto expert on yoga, gluten-free dining and bicycle commuting.
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