It’s been nine long years, but the third installment in this sci-fi film franchise (after 2000’s Pitch Black and 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick, but not including the comics, videos, and game releases) has finally arrived. All I can say is that I hope Vin Diesel gets around to making My Lollipop: The Telly Savalas Story – ideally with Steven Soderbergh attached – before another decade passes. As Riddick – the hulking, razor-blades-and-infant-blood-voiced, interstellar badass with the googly eyes and a penchant for punching first and lecturing the resulting corpses later – Diesel remains a fascinating tough guy and generally great fun to watch onscreen. His acting style, which has been more or less consistent since 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, combines animalistic, brute musculature with lots of long, simmering pauses in his dialogue, the better to telegraph his artful awfulness. There are, let’s face it, worse ways to wile away a movie than observing Vin Diesel’s often mad-seeming methods. (Let’s just agree to banish the memory of the actor’s 2005 tots ‘n’ toughs “comedy” The Pacifier, which nearly had me speed-dialing Child Protective Services.)
When we last left Riddick, he had ascended to the throne of the Necromongers. Nine years later, he just wants to return to his home planet of Furya. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” I suppose, but also, be careful what you ask for. Duped and stranded on a parched, perilous planet via the machinations of baddie Vaako (Urban), Riddick must immediately face off against an entire biosphere that seemingly exists for the sole purpose of making his life painful in new, ever more cringeworthy, ways. Feral canine critters with tiger teeth and squamous reptiles that border on the Lovecraftian do their best to engulf and devour our antihero, but the resourceful Riddick ends up wet-nursing a death puppy and injecting himself with the tentacled thing’s venom, rendering him immune to future attacks. Naturally.
The big fun starts when a group of bounty hunters arrive on this boiling terror firma and then, straightaway another party with Riddick’s blood on their minds shows up. Cry havoc and let slip the scowls (and hell-dogs) of war.
While The Chronicles of Riddick was an overstuffed melange of CGI and unnecessary subplots, Riddick is a far more streamlined affair, and all the better for it. The bounty hunters’ cocksure leader is played by the muy excellente Spanish actor Jordi Mollà (Blow, Elizabeth: The Golden Age), who looks and sounds like he wandered in from Machete in Space; Mollà is a sweaty, gritty joy to watch and his comeuppance here is wonderfully conceived. I enjoyed Riddick more than I expected I would. Relieved of the frankly confusing overkill that dragged down the series’ previous outing, director Twohy – he’s helmed all three films – gets plenty of ferocious mileage out of stranding a weaponless Riddick on an inhospitable planet and then letting the character do what he does best: seek and destroy. And destroy. And destroy.
I enjoyed Riddick more than I expected I would. Relieved of the frankly confusing overkill that dragged down the series’ previous outing, director Twohy – he’s helmed all three films – gets plenty of ferocious mileage out of stranding a weaponless Riddick on an inhospitable planet and then letting the character do what he does best: seek and destroy. And destroy. And destroy.