Film Review: Riddick

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Plot: Riddick (Vin Diesel) is left marooned and injured on an unknown and dangerous planet. As he fights to survive the various creatures, Riddick comes under fire from a gang of bounty hunters and mercenaries led by a captain (Matt Nable) from Riddick’s past who is hell bent on capturing the outlaw alive.

While there may be “Chronicles of Riddick” in the plural sense, this is the first chronicle for me as Riddick is my introduction to the man whose eyeballs look like baby light bulbs. Bad light bulb jokes aside, Riddick is a fun, solid, and thoroughly entertaining little movie. While I think a great lead actor could have done wonders for this film, Vin Diesel is at the helm for a third time as the character, and while I’ve never been a big fan of the actor, this is probably the best I’ve ever seen him. And believe me, that’s really not saying a lot.

I think of Diesel as a slightly better Jason Statham. He seems to work hard and is certainly likable, but the charisma just isn’t there. What concerned me most about this film off the bat is that it was clear Diesel would be carrying the first act all by himself…red flag. It’s just Riddick wandering around injured trying to survive what looks like unfinished Star Wars creatures that were found on the cutting room floor at Lucasfilm. Diesel’s performance in this first act is both positive and negative – When he’s not talking, I liked it. When he provides a voice over, I didn’t like it. Getting rid of Riddick’s voice-over entirely could have made this first act significantly stronger, as the best stuff is just watching him battle the elements and out smart vicious creatures.

What’s interesting about the film though is that Riddick is absent nearly the entire second act. It’s pretty much just watching these sleazy bounty hunters and hard ass mercenaries fight with each other as Riddick screws with everybody from the shadows like an evil Macaulay Caulkin in Home Alone. Showing very little of Riddick during this section of the film was great and definitely added to his mystique.

Towards the end of the film we see Riddick plenty, and as the movie went on, Diesel actually steps up his acting game significantly. There’s a point when he’s tied up in chains, and his line delivery is convincingly intimidating and bad ass. There are two scenes of fantastic tension in the film, and this was one of them. What also helps Diesel’s acting is this whole light bulb eyes thing. It’s kind of like Keanu Reeves in the third Matrix when he’s blindfolded throughout most of the movie, making it easier to hide his acting flaws.

Diesel isn’t the only actor in here though. The supporting cast surprisingly offered quite a bit. Riddick’s two primary antagonists are Santana, a scum bag bounty hunter played by Jordi Molla, and Boss Johns, played by Matt Nable, leader of the mercenaries, and who only wants to capture Riddick to question him about events in a previous film. Santana and Boss Johns actually spend more time fighting each other, providing a lot of comedy and unease. One of the best elements about Riddick is nobody trusts anybody, and you feel like there could be twenty-five double crosses. But these two villains provide a lot of character, with Santana being the more vile money grubbing jerk hole, and Johns being the down to business no non-sense guy.

The other character I really liked was John’s right hand woman, Dahl, played by Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackoff. Why isn’t Sackoff in more movies? She is a superb talent – totally bad ass, and very likable. She has a great command of the screen, and for me was the real heart of the film. Sackoff would actually make a very good Wonder Woman if Warner Brothers ever made one…

The look of this film is also pretty stellar, despite a lot of orange and yellow. Seriously, it looks like the sun directed this movie. But it does make for a cool distinctive looking film, even though there are times where the special effects are downright embarrassing.

The first act is a bit slow, the third act wears a bit thin with too many “Let’s kill the same monster for the fiftieth time” moments, and I wish Diesel’s voice-overs were taken out or at least written better, but other then that, this is a good tension filled little bad ass romp.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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