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Article by Teddy Durgin

"Riddick" Gases Up the Diesel for a Third Spin

I often talk to people before movie previews. I like pressing the flesh and catching up, whether it's with East County Times readers or other critics or the studio representatives who run the screenings. And the big question that was on EVERYONE'S mind before the recent preview of "Riddick" - whether they were in the parking lot, the snack-bar line, the men's room, the theater lobby or the theater itself - was... "So, uh, do you remember the first two 'Riddick' movies?!" And those who did remember either or both of them basically said the same thing: "Uh, well, Vin Diesel's a tough guy... and he can see in the dark." OK, I remember a little bit more than that about 2000's effective "Pitch Black" and the bloated, preposterously self-serious "The Chronicles of Riddick" four years later. But, eh, not much more. "Riddick" strips the character bare, marooning him like in the first film on a world with snarling beasties. The first 20 or so minutes of this three-quel are pretty darn great. It's just Riddick alone, virtually no dialogue, walking a barren, Martian-like landscape and stumbling into one nightmare after another. He has no weapons, no technology. Just this roided-up Mr. Clean figuring out different ways to kill alien creatures with his bare hands before they kill him. Then, it becomes a bit goofy. Riddick happens upon a deserted encampment and activates a homing beacon. In minutes, two ships carrying rival hunters show up eager to collect the bounty on Riddick's head. It's not the greatest of plots. This middle part of film meanders terribly as Riddick plays cat and mouse with the two factions of mercenaries - one led by the pompous Santana (Jordi Molla), who is eager to bring Riddick back dead; and the other led by Johns (Matt Nable), who wants Riddick taken alive for personal reasons that actually tie in nicely with the original "Pitch Black." There is a lot of wheel spinning and water treading in this second act while the audience waits and waits for the film to "get to the good stuff" - i.e. the approach of a massive storm and a long nightfall that will bring "Alien"-like creatures out to hunt and kill and force the bounty hunters to realize that their only chance of making it off this rock alive is to get Riddick on their side. On the positive side, I respect Diesel for believing in this project and this character and lining up independent financing for this project. He knows just where to put his money as the CGI creatures in this are really well rendered, and he doesn't populate the supporting roles with name actors collecting paychecks. Instead, he and writer-director David Twohy cast solid talents. Nable is a real find here, and Katee Sackhoff of "Battlestar Galactica" is a treat as a lesbian sniper who can more than hold her own in a fist fight. It's not great. But of the three films, I think "Riddick" might end up being the one worthy of some remembrance.

 

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