The Impossible. John Dies at the End. Texas Chainsaw 3-D. Gangster Squad. Promised Land. Broken City. The Last Stand. Phantom. Oblivion. Pain and Gain. Epic. Fast and Furious. After Earth. World War Z.


It’s not considered going back to your roots if you’re forced back. Pitch Black was a surprise success and it led way to the gigantic The Chronicles of Riddick, which wasn’t. The choices were limited for the franchise but due to great perseverance from writer/director David Twohy and star Vin Diesel the story of their almost human interstellar tough guy was able to continue. Riddick is most definitely built from the matter Pitch Black was crafted from. Very few locations, a streamlined story, and a concept fueled by humans pitted against monsters. No politics. No epic saga. Just lean and mean science fiction fueled action.

For the most part it works. Vin Diesel has more fun with this character than any other he’s played. He’s able to parlay his geek credentials, physique and persona into something that fits. Something that’s also not a big stretch. Twohy is also at home here. His approach to action is unorthodox and there’s a refreshing balance, not unlike what Shane Black brings to his films. It’s left of center and clever and considering some of the potentially ham fisted moments in a film like this a lot of mileage is earned simply by seeing how Diesel and Twohy tackle well-worn concepts.

The premise involves Riddick being stranded on a desolate and hostile world he thought was his own. It isn’t and it turns out to be even less hospitable. Bizarre creatures of all sorts want to end the lives of interlopers but in his battle to survive Riddick gains a strategy on how to turn the tables. When he rings the dinner bell for all the mercenaries after his head to land on this planet, it creates a situation where the filmmakers can have fun with their slippery antihero as he runs circles around the lesser combatants. Things don’t go well for them. The idea of this character being stranded and choosing to have the people scouring the universe for him be his ride out is one of the film’s better hooks.

Where the film excels in in the smaller moments, particularly the first forty minutes. Riddick does a better job of showing a character in a foreign world in a really fun way than most genre films in recent memory. When compared to something like After Earth it’s light years ahead. Seeing Riddick trying to heal himself or stay alive is interesting here and there are equal moments of tension and levity in the process. There’s an old school vibe to it. There’s also a surprisingly effective sidekick character in the form of a jackal/zebra/dog creature Riddick befriends. Their playful relationship and the struggle to survive the planet is almost enough for its own film.

When the mercenaries arrive there’s a great deal of posturing and machismo, though not without some fun moments. There’s just a lot of expository baggage for them to carry and frankly the less characters and plot points a Riddick film has the better. The film eases into its formula and is a slave to it. Most of the action is extremely familiar, which sadly hamstrings a film in a seriously crowded genre. The ending is a letdown as well, something that rings of the filmmakers either out of time or creatively painted into a corner.

When it works it works well. There are some fun characters to rub against Riddick and actors like Jordi Molla chew the scenery like popcorn. The film never takes itself too seriously and stays firmly in the B-movie territory it belongs in. Unfortunately the action scenes don’t have much to offer and the film’s lack of a budget really shows once the film attempts to compete with other summer movies. The effects are at best serviceable and more often than not a decade behind the current standard. It works but it requires a little suspension of disbelief.

Additionally, Patrick Tatopoulos’ creature designs are extremely substandard. It’s one thing to have a style and another thing altogether to coast on the same few trademarks. The creatures are uninspiring and lend to the film’s odd vibe which seems to aim for that ground between VOD releases and theatrical. Ultimately the film is fun and worth a pop for fans but it’s by no means a classic or something worth making a big effort to see. It’s Twohy and Diesel having fun and when it’s great through fun dialogue or a great kill it builds a lot of mileage for the lesser moments.

Recommended but not as a first weekend watch.

Do we deserve one of these every five years?

Sure we do. Who doesn’t want to see Vin Diesel be a dick to people hunting him every once in a while.

How’s that weird dog creature I saw in the trailer?

Awesome. The effects are pretty weak but it’s a fun character with a great dynamic with the leading bald man. Unfortunately the character doesn’t get a proper send-off thematically.

Are the mercenaries awesome?

They’re fine. They bicker and banter and play tough and are funny when they’re shitting their pants about Riddick. Jordi Molla does his best Peter Stormare impersonation.

Will I see boobies?

Katie Sackhoff takes her sack off.

If a character gets killed in the trailer why should I bother?

Because there are a few fun deaths you don’t see in the trailer.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

Nick On… Is my new ongoing movie review column. The goal is to distill things a little and make it a little more playful and easier to digest rather than the long form. Hope you like. Please let me know what you think as there will be many of these coming and the goal always is to improve. Please share and whatnot.

– Nick (Twitter, Facebook)

The ImpossibleJohn Dies at the EndTexas Chainsaw 3-DGangster SquadPromised LandBroken CityThe Last StandPhantomOblivionPain and GainEpicFast and FuriousAfter EarthWorld War Z.

Riddick (2013) 119 min

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.

09.06.2013 (USA)
  • David Twohy
  • David Twohy
  • Jim Wheat
  • Vin Diesel
  • Karl Urban
  • Katee Sackhoff
  • Nolan Gerard Funk
  • Dave Bautista
  • Action
  • Sci-Fi
  • Thriller
Watch or buy now

Riddick on IMDb