Horror review: Riddick

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, SEPT. 5, 2013

The owners of the Riddick franchise definitely had the right idea with this third film in the Vin Diesel–driven series—for the first 20 minutes, at least.

After that, everything goes to Diesel-powered shit.

But for the first few scenes, David Twohy—who also directed 2000’s Pitch Black and its follow-up, The Chronicles of Riddick—eschews the overwrought PG sci-fi spectacle of the second film and goes back to focus on the R-rated horror of the first.

As in Pitch Black, the ferocity of the imaginatively rendered monsters easily steals the show from Diesel’s monosyllabic machoisms. The first appearance of the chrome-domed action hero is just his muscular right arm shooting up from beneath some sun-scorched planet’s reddish soil so that he can strangle the vulture/pterodactyl–type critter that’s been stalking him.

There are no punches pulled in the gore department, like when Riddick skims in slo-mo across a putrid pond while using a hooked blade to open the underbelly of a snakelike monster. The guts plop out and the ravenous beastie gobbles them down before succumbing to the injury.

Even the seen-it-all Riddick seems a tad grossed out by that.

Soon after, though, the movie’s creature fun gets usurped and it goes downhill when a team of stereotypically evil mercenaries led by the weaselly Santana (Jordi Molla) show up, literally calling for Riddick’s head. Things get worse when another group of mercenaries—this one along the lines of the good-guy, all-American type—show up with the more levelheaded Boss Johns (Matt Nable) in command. Predictably, the rival groups butt heads, leading to inane banter like, “Where did you get that theory from? A unicorn’s ass?”

At 119 minutes, Riddick is a half-hour too long. Even 80 minutes of this hokey macho hogwash would have been too much.

Shoulda stuck with the monsters.

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