RATING: 3 stars (out of 4)
If you ever become a space mercenary, make a note never to hunt down Riddick on a wasteland planet. It’s just not worth your time. He kills everybody he meets. Like, he would probably even kill those weird, cracked-out kids that go door-to-door trying to sell magazine subscriptions.
Even if Riddick is chained up, weaponless and tired from being up all night killing things, it is no time to get sassy with him. He’s got this one move that’s just right for such a situation. I won’t spoil it, save for naming it “Kickstopper.” You’ll know it when you see it.
And see it you should. Big, dumb action movies like Riddick, in which a musclebound hero kills, kills, kills in between catchphrase mutterings, are a dying breed. This movie seems like it was hermetically sealed in a 1990s time capsule and buried away for the era when we needed it most, after life force-draining series like Twilight and all the terrible movies that spawn from Nicholas Sparks books have castrated movie screens, leaving us sad, unfulfilled and yearning for a real, Stallone/Schwarzenegger/Willis-style man to come and rock their worlds once again.
Problem is, the special effects also look like they came from a time capsule. This movie’s idea of art direction is to take gooey globs of questionable CGI and splash them all over the green screen. To enjoy the movie, you pretty much have to accept the Roger Rabbit-ness of the proceedings and be happy with Diesel rolling around and playing games of vicious grabass with poorly drawn animated creatures. Also, you have to either ignore the Power Rangers-like fakeness when characters ride around on their hoverbikes or accept those sequences as unintended comedy.
The core of the movie, though, is Diesel being Diesel, searing through the screen as Riddick, the interstellar criminal who can see in the dark.
Diesel, despite his idiotic propensity for either doing nothing for years on end, only to pop up as a babysitter in Disney movies or as his boring Fast and Furious character, is probably the lone scion to carry forth the tradition of the grand 1980s and 90s action studs. And although he would clearly do anything short of back alley handjobs or coke in exchange for money, judging from his sad and pathetic IMDB filmography, when his heart is in the right project he can rock it like Arnold in his heyday.
His heart, and even a lot of his own money, is in Riddick for sure. As awful as the CGI is, the choreography is just as awesome, exploding up to WWE-style levels of vigor and panache. This is pretty much a movie version of a fighting game, and the fighting that’s here is brutal, stylish and mesmerizing.
What little there is of a plot centers around bounty hunters ignoring my advice and stupidly tracking Riddick down on a desert-cave planet home to such nasty creatures as a hyena-like wolf and a walking sea serpent-scorpion snake mash-up. Riddick fights off these creatures in clever ways while finding time to elude his would-be captors, picking them off in the usual manner, one by one like a stealthy ninja.
As if that weren’t enough on the guy’s plate, he also decides to romance a lesbian bounty hunter played by Katee Sackhoff, whom Battlestar Galactica fans will remember from their naughty, “naw, baby, I was totally thinking of you!” dreams as Starbuck. The romance, such as it is, is eye-rolling, ham-handed stuff, even for something as dumb as this. But in the moment, it totally works.
All hail Riddick, killer of everything that moves — poorly-drawn cartoon or not — sayer of smooth, t-shirt-worthy bravado and romancer of lesbian Starbuck. All in a night’s work for our elusive hero, who stubbornly refuses to realize it’s 2013.
Starring Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Dave Bautista and Karl Urban. Written by David Twohy, Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell. Directed by Twohy. 118 minutes. Rated R.