Riddick: Vin Diesel's Show

Vin Diesel got a lot of press attention when he claimed that he risked everything he had—including his house—in order to get the movie Riddick funded.

The third chapter of a series that began with Pitch Black and continued with The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick is an old-fashioned actioner with cardboard characters that entirely depends on the appeal of Diesel as a movie star.

Going back to the roots of the franchise, while hiring the director of the first segment, David Twohy, Diesel has made an improbably but passably entertaining actioner, which takes away the bad taste left after the second chapter, “The Chronicles of Riddick,” which was both a critical and commercial flop vis-à-vis its escalating budget.

Diesel is, of course, better known for the franchise Fast & Furious, which is running stronger and stronger at the nox-office, especially overseas.

The reduced budget, rumored to be one third of that of the 2004 flick, has forced all the participants not only to cut down their paychecks but also to concentrate more on their characters, such as they are, rather than the visual and sound effects.

Diesel reprises his role as the antihero Riddick, a dangerous escaped convict wanted by various bounty hunters. When last seen, Riddick had been crowned Lord Marshal of the Necromongers. As such, he claims numerous women and limitless power. But being an outsider in a strange land has turned him into a bored, restless man.

When the duplicitous Commander Vaako (Karl Urban) reveals that he knows where the Furya, the long-lost planet of Riddick’s people, are, Riddick’s desire to find his home overrides his suspicions of Vaako. Helped by several loyal soldiers, Riddick takes a ship and leaves behind his comfy but dull lifestyle.

The ship’s landing in his world reveals a sun-scorched planet that seems lifeless. Double-crossed, Riddick is left for dead. Barely mobile, he realizes the negative effects of being Lord Marshal had on him—he’s softer and dulled. He soon begins to hone the instincts that are his birthright and fight for survival against predators more lethal than any human he’s ever encountered. The only way off this rock is more perilous than staying put. He must activate an emergency beacon and alert mercenaries who descend upon the planet in search of their bounty.

Tal becomes slightly more interesting, when the first arriving vessel carries a new breed of lethal and violent mercenaries. Led by the sadistic Santana (Jordi Molla), the marauders is are kept in line by Santana’s muscle, Diaz (Dave Bautista). Also aboard are the pious Luna (Nolan Gerard Funk), Vargas (Conrad Pla), Nunez (Noah Danby), Rubio (Neil Napier) and Falco (Danny Blanco Hall), as well as their prisoner (Keri Lynn Hilson), a hostage tormented cruelly by her captors.

But Santana’s vessel isn’t the only one with mercenaries. The second craft that lands is led by Boss Johns (Matt Nable), whose hunt for Riddick is driven by personal motives. His armed and trained soldiers include his second-in-command, Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), the Nordic mercenary and deadly sniperd Lockspur (Raoul Trujillo), the seasoned bounty hunter and expert tracker, and the mechanic Moss (Bokeem Woodbine).

Based in isolated station, Santana makes it clear that his crew needs no help from Johns, who assures the thug he just wants to interrogate Riddick. But when chaos erupts outside, Santana realizes the advantage of having two crews rather than one.

The clock is ticking and time is running out. Not helping matter is a life-threatening storm, but the hunters won’t leave the planet without getting Riddick, failing to realize his animalistic powers.

Writer-director David Twoney, who has also made A Perfect Getaway and The Fugitive, helms in a functional but impersonal way.

Set in the distant future, Riddick is a retro sci-fi flick with an utterly improbably plot and modest intentions. The bottom line is: Do you like Vin Diesel? Diesel’s powerful screen presence has always been his main asset as a star: his stone-faced demeanor, bald head, ultra-muscled body, basso voice, which is gravely used in this picture, and erotic appeal that’s overt even when the plot doesn’t call for it.

End Note:

The Chronicles of Riddick opened nine years ago to a slightly stronger $24.3 million and went on to a worldwide lifetime cumulative of $115.8 million against its estimated $150 million budget. Produced at a modest $38 million, Riddick should be an easy win for Universal and may even kick-start the franchise from its dormancy.