Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Bokeem Woodbine, Dave Bautista, Conrad Pla, Raoul Trujillo, Nolan Funk, Keri Hilson
RunTime: 1 hr 59 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence, Some Nudity and Coarse Language)
Released By: GV & MVP
Opening Day: 12 September 2013
Synopsis: Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick's past.
Since ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’ was such a critical and commercial disappointment, it only seems logical that franchise helmer David Twohy would adopt a back-to-basics approach with this sequel. Indeed, right down to its pared down title, this titular intergalactic anti-hero’s third big-screen outing forgoes the overwrought politics that made its predecessor such a bloated and ill-conceived mess and instead opts for the stripped down intensity of ‘Pitch Black’, pitting the escaped convict once again against both aliens and humans in a sun-scorched desolate planet.
Opening with a near-wordless sequence with only Vin Diesel’s trademark basso-voice occasionally punctuating the cries of the wild beasts, the first half-hour is an instant riveting grabber; and as Riddick orientates himself to his new surroundings, we too are acquainted with the dangers that surround - the winged pterodactyls, the dingoes with razor-sharp teeth, and most memorably the giant slithering scorpion-like denizens of the swamps. Besides the elemental man-versus-nature struggle, we are also treated to some gorgeous otherworldly vistas - not unlike that of the planet with three suns that Riddick was first marooned on in ‘Pitch Black’.
Except for a brief filler to provide continuity with the events in “Chronicles”, this is otherwise a highly focused, edge-of-your-seat gripping introduction that fans will love. Yes, in that flashback, those who sat through the last movie and came back for this will be familiar with the Necromongers (including a certain Commander Vakko, whom Karl Urban reprises in a cameo) Riddick had last been seen fighting against, and for whom earning the title of Lord Marshal is not enough to stop from being double-crossed and left for dead on a planet identified only as “not Furya”. Not that one needs to bother - even Riddick acknowledges that “somewhere along the way I lost a step… gotta find that animal side again.”
And so Twohy treats us to plenty of that here, as Riddick fashions his homemade weapons to deal with the unfriendly fauna standing in between him and survival. Yet, Riddick hasn’t gone all cold and callous - in fact, this Riddick seems even more human than his earlier iterations. Not only does he seem more vulnerable (his face and body bearing some clearly grievous wounds from being double-crossed), he also shows off a heretofore unseen more playful side through his domestication of a wild dingo he raises from young. The fact that Riddick’s newfound levity in no way diminishes his bad-assness is a sign of the assurance both Twohy and Diesel have in the character this third time round, leaving utterly no doubt that Riddick owns the movie.
It is precisely because the movie rests so heavily on Riddick’s shoulders that the middle section actually sags. Activating a distress signal on an abandoned station, Riddick summons two groups of bounty hunters after his head - the first led by an over-the-top Jordi Mollà's Santana and the second by a stony Boss Johns (Matt Nable). The equivalent of ‘cock-blocking’ ensues, with Santana eager to shut Johns out and claim Riddick as his prize - until of course he finds himself predictably outwitted by Riddick, and thereafter reluctantly agree to work on Johns’ terms. Unfortunately, even with Katee Sackhoff’s kick-ass female character Dahl, the ego posturing gets tiring after a while - especially since Riddick gets pushed to the periphery for far longer than necessary.
That said, Twohy here aims for the cheesy cornball sci-fi flicks of the 80s and early 90s, and in that regard, he succeeds in injecting the movie with pulpy fun - thanks to some choice lines by tough babe Dahl and the utter incompetence of Santana and his crew. This is the kind of movie where Dahl asserts her lesbianism with a line like “I don’t fuck guys. Occasionally, I fuck them up if they need it” and Santana gets to trash-talk with homophobic insults and rape jokes before getting his butt kicked by Dahl; it is also that kind of movie where most of the “mercs” are disposable and the one that stands out (i.e. Santana) is prepped for a particularly gleeful comeuppance.
Rest assured he does his, in a jaw-dropping bit that makes delightful use of a machete, a box and half a severed head. In a nice nod to ‘Pitch Black’, it is a storm that unleashes the darkness in which all hell breaks loose, setting in motion a climax of non-stop exhilaration as the bounty hunters are forced to rely on Riddick to get off the planet. If there was any doubt that Twohy could return the franchise back to the R-rated thrills of the first movie, then this extended finale should firmly put those worries to rest; in fact, we’re willing to guarantee that you’ll find yourself cheering at the way Riddick outwits, outplays and outlasts his enemies in exuberantly gory fashion.
You have to hand it to Twohy - after somewhat losing his way following an obviously studio-driven sequel, he once again restores credibility to the cult status of Richard B. Riddick, arguably the genesis in the kind of modern cinematic masculinity that Vin Diesel has continually built on through roles in ‘Fast and Furious’ and ‘xXx’. By returning Riddick to a story more akin in structure and style to ‘Pitch Black’, Twohy also does a successful reboot that puts R-rated fun back into the sci-fi genre. And even more if you have been a fan of ‘Pitch Black’, this back to genre basics tale of Riddick’s quest for survival is exactly the sort of sequel you have waited 13 years to be made.
(Exactly the ‘Pitch Black’ sequel fans would love, Vin Diesel’s third outing as the intergalactic anti-hero is the stuff of classic R-rated sci-fi B-movies - pulpy, gory and a whole lot of violent fun)
Review by Gabriel Chong