Set under a scorching sun on a hellish alien planet, the sci-fi thriller Riddick sits poised between the cult classic Pitch Black and its overwrought sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick.
What all three movies share, besides the same director, is Vin Diesel at the peak of his powers. That growly voice. That sardonic attitude. That extraordinary survival skill. That beastly physique. And most critically, that sense of honour that flourishes even in the world of intergalactic criminals. Don't mess with Richard B. Riddick, not when he is played by the rocket-fueled Diesel.
The only trouble with the new movie is that producer-star Diesel and writer-director David Twohy mostly recycle plot and action that we have already experienced. I expected more originality after nine years. Even though five writers are credited (two for creating the original characters), the Riddick script could have been hammered out by a 100 chimpanzees randomly hitting keys on 100 battered typewriters. Especially the dialogue, Diesel's quips aside.
Basically, Riddick wakes up severely injured, after being left for dead on a wasteland somewhere in space some time in the distant future. Cue murky flashbacks, and now we know how the bad guys betrayed our badass anti-hero. Meanwhile, in the here and now, Riddick battles bzillions of alien monsters that want to snack on his meat and bones. Some look like mutant hyenas, others like giant scorpions crossed with offspring of the Kraken. Nasty brutes.
At some point, Riddick is forced to activate a signal that reveals his identity while attracting two spaceships. One is alive with scuzzball mercenaries who plan to collect a reward on Riddick's head. Literally. They have a box for his noggin after it gets chopped off. The other spaceship carries a crew led by a man who has a personal score to settle. Either way, Riddick is wanted. Either way, he will die, or kill most of the heavily armed warriors who want to hunt him down.
Not surprisingly, because he is Riddick and his name IS the title, plenty of other people will die horribly. With one exception, the dumbest die first. Who survives -- how and why -- is the so-called plot.
What is delicious is seeing Diesel coping with crises, atrocities and situations. Diesel's physicality remains exceptional. He is both fast and furious in the Riddick movies, even when crippled, crushed, restrained or even chained. Plus that tongue, with its dripping sarcasm, is a weapon all by itself.
What is also yummy is seeing how he interacts with the gonzo lesbian mercenary (Katee Sackhoff). Diesel's Riddick is cheeky towards her. Sackhoff's doll-faced Dahl is hilariously dangerous and sexy in response. Plus she looks fantastic.
What is less tasty is the motley collection of henchmen, mostly types and/or cliches. Ditto for the hordes of alien creatures, all of which look, sound and act like other movie monsters. Except for the hyena-canine-thingy that Riddick raises from a pup into a vicious companion who is incredibly loyal to his master.
In the world of Riddick, a four-legged killing machine is the best friend a man can have.