Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Riddick (2013)

Director: David Twohy
Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Matthew Nable, Jordi Molla, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine, with cameos by Karl Urban and Keri Hilson

Outside of the odd ability for "Pitch Black" to takes its B-grade foundations and convert them to an A-grade film, the Riddick series stumbled when it tried to advance itself into an A-grade series with the second entry "Chronicles Of Riddick." Not that "Chronicles" was the atrocity that so many people make it out to be, it's not a great film by any means, but the Riddick franchise was firmly rooted in the over the top and often silly realm of action series of old. It's a style and focus that you either understand or you don't...which is what makes the third entry of the franchise such an intriguing one. "Pitch Black" might have risen above its means and "Chronicles" might have tried too hard to be something it wasn't, but "Riddick" knows and caters to the fan base with such intensity and ferocity that if you're a fan it's hard not to find something you love.

Don't misunderstand me, it's hard not to be torn about the qualities of "Riddick." On one hand, the film is a massively entertaining film that caters to 'vulgar auteur' in me with terribly cheesy dialogue, super violent action sequences, and characters that focus on fitting stereotypes more than real people. This was what was promised to us and I'll be damned if "Riddick" doesn't deliver on this promise. On the other hand, all of those previously mentioned aspects make for a film that can hardly be taken seriously or judged on a 'classic' scale of good or bad. Just know that going into this film that you should probably check your coat and brain at the door and just except the film for what it is.

"Now it's your turn Urban to save a dying franchise with Dredd!"
So let's actually look at the various elements of "Riddick" and whether or not they work. Firstly, it's hard not to love Vin Diesel. The man was born to play this titular character and he delivers on all fronts. While some of his dialogue and lines might be atrociously bad (...there are bad days and then there are legendary bad days...), he delivers it in such a fun and semi-serious way that I was willing to eat up every word. The rest of the cast tends to be a bit more hit or miss. "Riddick" is populated with some great B-grade character actors and they all have the ability to chew scenery, which they do eagerly. Jordi Molla plays a smarmy crusty villain with relative ease (he's done it before in films like "Columbiana" and "Bunraku") and Matthew Nable gives some grounded foundation - and character arc - to the film for some much needed reality at times. I was relatively disapointed in the lacking character work for both Katee Sackoff and Dave Bautista, but they could eat scenes if they wanted to and do frequently.

Riddick with his tiger-wolf-horse-hyena thing.

Outside of the cast, the film has a little trouble giving us a cohesive narrative. "Riddick" feels like three films threaded together. The first third, my favorite portion, has a lone Riddick struggling to survive on a harsh planet populated by pissed off CGI creatures. The narration here is fun and the pacing brisk as we watch Riddick do what he does best, rise to the occasion to kick ass. While it does have some odd moments (a naked Riddick walking on the rocks was a little awkward), this first portion really sets a standard that the rest of the film has trouble following. The second act focuses on our mercenaries who come to find Riddick. They bicker and banter for a while and its fun to see Riddick go into stealth mode, but the film tends to drag a little here. This portion does, however, add a nice connection to the first film which I didn't see coming. The third act then goes straight for "Pitch Black" mode as the few surviving mercs and Riddick have to escape the planet from the evil scorpion aliens who intend to kill them. This is perhaps the most action oriented portion of the film and is easily the most exciting even if it still lacks a bit of the charm of the first act. While all three have their pros and cons, sometimes the transitions between the three feel a bit forced.

Even with some of its missed opportunities with secondary characters and storytelling, I still have to admit that I loved "Riddick." Director/writer Twohy understood what the fans of this series wanted and gave us all of the elements we wanted to 'reboot' this franchise. It's fully understandable why critics seemed to want to shit all over this film, but for this critic it was everything that the doctor ordered. It's hyper violent, fun, over the top in style, and utterly dedicated to setting up Riddick for more adventures as the lone ranger of anti-heroes. For this, I couldn't be happier with the film.

Written By Matt Reifschneider


  1. I, too, liked the surprise tie-in with the first film that arose 2/3 of the way through the movie. Didn't see that coming, but I liked the way that informed Riddick's relationship to that _______ to the end of the flick. (Don't wanna give away any spoilers, lol).

  2. Good review Matt. It wasn't great, but it was a fun movie. However, a little too slow at times.

  3. You seriously liked this better than Chronicles of Riddick? I found it nothing more than a lame carbon copy of Pitch Black. What a wasted opportunity to resurrect a badass character back from the dead. People actually actually walked out on the film in my hometown - Jimmy S.