Written by David Twohy, Jim Wheat and more
Directed by David Twohy
Starring Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff and more
Sometimes, all we want out of a movie is to watch someone punch a monster in the face really hard.
“Riddick,” the third in a series chronicling the adventures of the titular character, is an almost brutal yet satisfying return to form. The movie returns the trilogy to pure survivalist action, a war waged against impersonal (but beautifully rendered) CGI monsters, and the blood and mayhem it offers is almost viscerally entertaining.
Though plot barely matters in these kind of movies, “Riddick” begins with our hero dropped on an abandoned planet for reasons that are eventually described in a quick flashback. This flashback also serves to reject the excesses of the second movie, 2004’s “The Chronicles of Riddick,” even as it indulges in them for a few final moments (i.e. full-frontal female nudity).
Then it’s straight on to killing surprisingly detailed and realistic-looking monsters in landscapes far more beautiful than are normally seen in action movies. Everyone in the computer animation department should be applauded for their work in “Riddick,” particularly in relation to the entirely adorable dingo-like creature that becomes Riddick’s companion for a time. It may have been made of nothing more than pixels, but it manages to inspire Vin Diesel to some of the most nuanced acting I’ve seen from the man in a long time.
Of course, one of the reasons Diesel works in this movie is that there’s very little nuanced about him. The man’s always been the human version of a blunt instrument, his settings stuck on either melodrama or violence, but in a survivalist movie like this anything quieter would get lost. “Riddick” is at its most effective when it essentially becomes “Conan the Barbarian” in space, and Diesel indulges in all the raw opera that requires.
The other actors are mostly there for cannon fodder, though Matt Nable is a standout. His character is a nod to 2000’s “Pitch Black,” and Nable brings a note of dignity and depth of feeling to the role that exists nowhere else in the movie.
If there’s one flaw to Riddick, it’s a streak of misogyny far more obvious than can even be found in most modern action movies. The one female character in the movie is named “Dahl,” which conveniently sounds exactly like “Doll” every time another character refers to her by name. It’s also suggested near the end that she sleeps with Riddick, even though she’s shown nothing but distaste for him throughout most of the movie.
The saddest thing about this is that Dahl is played by Katee Sackhoff, an actress who has proven time and time again that she can hold her own against any man. Indeed, the scenes where she gets to violently beat up another character in the movie are delightful to watch, and I can only pray that one day someone hands this woman an action movie of her own to helm.
After all, everyone should get a chance to punch monsters.