Vin Diesel fans will be overjoyed. The rest of us will pick it apart.
I’ll admit it up front. I only saw Riddick as a favor to my fiancee. She’s got this thing about Vin Diesel that a lot of people have. He’s a real love-him-or-hate-him kind of guy. There was a time back in the ’90s when it looked like he was going to get a shot as a serious actor. His roles in Boiler Room and Find Me Guilty were well received, but now if you want to see Mr. Diesel, it’s in a Fast and Furious movie, or it’s as the titular character, Riddick.
When this movie begins, Riddick is abandoned, beaten and torn up, on an unnamed desert planet. We learn fairly quickly that he has insane survival skills, practicing all sorts of scary self medicine like resetting a broken bone by reenacting scenes from 127 Hours. We find out he’s smart as he deals with a pack of wild dogs by being clever instead of violent. And we learn that he’s patient, as rather than go head first into a fight he can’t win, he spends what could be days or weeks planning for one battle. In other words, this is one bad mother … shut your mouth!
Hey! I’m talking about Riddick.
After the Riddick in the wilderness act ends, we’re introduced to a couple of teams of bounty hunters who come to the planet to get the reward on Riddick’s head. We know that one of them is a horrible person because he shoots a woman in the back, tries to rape another one, and then kills an animal. OK, listen. WE GOT IT THE FIRST TIME! But this movie doesn’t deal in subtleties. It deals in whamming its audience over the head with things so that we understand them. Another example is the character called “doll,” spelled “Dahl,” who makes it clear she’s not into men, but will Riddick get to her? If you think the answer is no, you do not know what kind of movie you’re watching.
The second act of the movie is the best part. It’s a slasher film, and our hero is the slasher. Everyone’s constantly afraid of Riddick, and worried they might get killed by him, and some of them do, and it’s a bit of sick fun to root for Freddy or Jason, and I thought it was going to stay in that lane, but then the movie shifts into some lame third act team-up double-cross action-movie-cliche parts, and the life just gets sucked out of it.
This particular film is pretty low budget by modern standards, and it often feels it, with the backdrops and CG looking pretty fake, but at least the entire thing isn’t shot in rainy darkness, so watching it didn’t give me a headache. Only thinking about some of the horrible dialog made my head hurt. When Riddick is asked if he can ride the hover motorcycle, he says “I’ll drive it like I stole it.” C’mon, Vin, if you were gonna turn into Dom for a minute, couldn’t you have said “Ride or die” there?
This movie is for Vin Diesel fans, appreciators of extremely dumb action movies, and people who like a lot of misogynistic dialogue. That’s probably enough people to make this a hit, but I can’t recommend it to anyone outside those three buckets.
Riddick opens today in movie theaters nationwide.