Director and Co-Writer David Twohy and Actor Vin Diesel bring another Riddick to the big screen that's not good enough for the Summer and too cheesy for even the Winter. Continuing after the titular character's apparent death in Chronicles, our story picks up with the hunted outcast trying to heal up while evading every manner of angry animal and alien. On this planet, referred to as 'Not Furya' (Riddick's home planet and the reason for his initial resignation from the Necromongers), the sun is hot and the wind penetrating, which is just how Riddick likes it. Soon, he's fashioning bone weapons, eating slimey rations from an abandoned rest station, and training a CGI dog with zebra stripes. But his past is about to catch up, as two teams of mercenaries descend to return him headless to Vaako (Karl Urban) and his people.
One group of mercs - led by the professional Johns (Matt Nable) - has ulterior motives to the mission, while the other team couldn't care less. Their leader Santana (Jordi Molla) has the hots for Johns' lesbian sharpshooter Dahl (Katie Sackhoff) but only finds the end of her fists on multiple occasions. As Riddick hunts down each team, a massive storm is just on the horizon, adding a new threat to the mercs and necessitating a quick escape that only our anti-hero now controls.
For a film that's nearly two hours, Riddick sure feels incomplete between three separate acts, each of which resembles a piece of a rejected story, somehow fused together and propped up just long enough before it tears under its own weight. Diesel's narration in the survival story of Act 1 disappears, replaced by a second act that feels like Predator, with Riddick hunting down each mercenary team until they finally submit, and bookended with a familiar Aliens invasion of the third. Meanwhile, Diesel scowls and rips off Fast and Furious-like lines ('Ride it like you stole it'), underutilizing Twonhy's assets along the way. Sackhoff's badass lesbian sniper is melted away to loving hetero glances by film's end, never growing beyond the angry retorts between her and Santana. The appearance of Urban is so short that it would have worked much better as a cameo; instead, it feels like part of his performance was left on the cutting room floor. In fact, there's something missing throughout the entire film, a sense of polish perhaps or as if 15 minutes of critical character development were cut. This is probably why it wasn't added to the Summer movie season, forced to play pauper while better projects danced and pirouetted in front of it.
And among this wreckage, there are some things to like here. Molla is excellent as the dirty merc, while Nable's search for his son's fate yields unexpected interactions between he and Diesel. You almost feel Riddick's justification as he tells Johns about why he had to end his son's dirty exploits. And Twohny does give the bald-headed bruiser plenty to hate about 'Not Furya,' a trick that easily gets us hoping he can escape. But past that initial point, it's all in the execution, and the hodge-podge storytelling is too long to keep us interested. Had real character development occurred without relying on breast shots from the Necromongers and Sackhoff herself (nice ones, by the way) along with the unending amount of cheesy dialogue, Riddick could have been a deep character story AND a surprise hit too. Imagine that.
Missing too much polish for a Summer film and filled with too much cheese even for the typically-dramatic Winter, Riddick is mildy entertaining but feels like a stood-up prom date. It's initially got a lot going for it, but fails to execute or even stay cohesive from act to act. Still, it's modest $38 million budget should help it to make good money, which will of course produce another sequel that perhaps Diesel will get right this time. It's not the worst movie of 2013 by far, but its wasted opportunity is hard to swallow. Perhaps we'll one day be treated to a Director's Cut that will tie things better together. Just don't tell Vin Diesel that. He might get angry. Riddick is rated R for nudity and violence and has a runtime of 119 minutes.
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