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Movie review: ‘Riddick’

Posted 5:23pm on Thursday, Sep. 05, 2013

R (strong violence, strong language, sexual content/nudity); 119 min.

The lack of imagination in Riddick, the third installment in director/writer David Twohy’s increasingly forgettable sci-fi franchise, is so stunning that it’s almost like a special effect in itself.

In fact, if they handed out awards for dull action-movie cliches, witless sexist jokes, leaden pacing and tiring CGI, then Twohy better start writing his acceptance speech now.

After the overblown Chronicles of Riddick, Twohy was supposedly going to go back to the lean simplicity that made the first Riddick film, Pitch Black in 2000, a cool little cinematic calling card.

That film starred Vin Diesel as an escaped convict fighting to stay alive on a planet of hungry predators.

Now, Riddick finds himself dumped on a hostile slab of rock after leaving Helion Prime, the planet at the center of a power grab in the Chronicles of Riddick, fighting to stay alive against attacks from vicious canines and giant lizard-scorpion-crocodile creatures.

But there’s a bounty on Riddick’s head, and two teams of competing bounty hunters show up to claim their prize.

One is led by Santana (a campy Jordi Mollá, Colombiana) and the other by Boss Johns (Matt Nable), the father of one of the men in Pitch Black who believes Riddick is responsible for his son’s death.

Of course, Riddick single-handedly can outsmart them all.

This could have made for an entertaining cat-and-mouse game, but there’s little fresh in the film’s action/fight scenes or the writing (the f-word is thrown around enough to make Quentin Tarantino say “what the heck?”). And none of these characters is particularly intriguing. Brawny yet boring, Diesel is especially inert.

The one who comes closest — Dahl (Katee Sackhoff, Battlestar Galactica) as Johns’ no-nonsense and openly gay second-in-command — is treated to a litany of lines that basically say that what she needs is a man.

It’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not.

The film’s most intriguing element is the casting of Nable, an Australian Aboriginal actor, in the role of Johns, a rarity in a big-budget Hollywood production. (But a better vehicle for the former rugby player is the Aussie crime series Underbelly: Badness, currently airing on DirecTV in the U.S.).

The Riddick character has become so popular that he continues his adventures in several video games.

That’s a good thing, especially if that means Twohy — whose last film was the enjoyably breezy thriller A Perfect Getaway — can finally stop making movies about him.

— Cary Darling

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