Riddick returns with a vengeance

By Tim Pompey 09/12/2013


Riddick: Rule the Dark
Directed by David Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Jordi Mollà
Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity
1 hr. 59 min.

There’s really only one good reason to see this film, but that one reason is good enough for me. His name is Vin Diesel.

It’s true that he’s the same character in most of his movies. In fact, you may rightfully say that he’s a one-trick pony, but so what? Give the man credit. He’s good at what he does.

And here’s the best part. No matter what happens, you know he’s going to win. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of how and when. Watching him figure this out is half the fun.

In the Riddick series, he’s a much darker character — cynical, violent, an escaped prisoner who’s survived dozens of encounters with both alien and human beasts. In parts I and II, he’s already escaped off a planet filled with deadly monsters (Pitch Black) and conquered a bloodthirsty group of warriors (The Chronicles of Riddick). Now, as the ruler of the Necromongers, he’s learning that it’s not always good to be king.

So it happens that in part III, titled Riddick: Rule the Dark, he is betrayed and marooned on an unknown desert planet, left to beat off another batch of deadly monsters and eke out whatever life he has left in this sandy wasteland.

He does just that. But when a giant rainstorm approaches, he knows that he and his adopted hyena dog thingy have to get off this planet. You see, when it rains, bad things happen.

When he discovers a warehouse that has been used in the past as a layover for bounty hunters, he sets off an emergency beacon that draws in the very people he’s been trying to avoid. Why does he need his enemies? Well, he’s got a plan in mind, one that involves diplomacy and cooperation, Riddick style.

Director David Twohy returns for his third crack at Riddick. Even though it’s familiar territory to him (and to us), Twohy succeeds not only at ratcheting up the danger, but also providing a stark Utah-like palette of desperation and death.

In addition, he lets the film move quietly forward, especially in the beginning when Riddick is the lone occupant of a deadly space. There’s an ominous presence in this film lurking behind all those monsters. It’s the presence of solitude. It’s the plight of a man who is forced to live totally and solely alone.

It’s so eerie and effective that it’s almost a letdown when the bounty hunters finally arrive. At that point, the film becomes more of a standard action piece, predictable in that the viewers know that the hunters will become the hunted. And not just by Riddick.

It’s Diesel who holds this film together. Every frame that he’s in is worth watching: the subtle movements of his head, his taunting eyes, that dangerous smile. And having worked now for a couple of decades in various action series, he knows how to be both intelligent and menacing, and how giving less makes him grow even larger than life.

This is a standard sci-fi action film not so different from what you might see on cable, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It’s entertaining, has a sly sense of humor (especially between Riddick and his dog beast nicknamed Dingo Dongo), and carries out its mission with a clear sense of purpose.

It’s not Alien, but Twohy is smart enough to keep the action moving, and Diesel, fighting off giant hyenas, muddy scorpion monsters, and determined bounty hunters, is a hoot to watch.

One-trick pony? Maybe, but who else could pull this off? For those who’ve come to appreciate his performances, we all know that as long as the Vinster is up on screen, things are going to be all right.

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