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January 14, 2014

On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: Riddick (2013)

by NIR SHALEV

Riddick (2013)

When we last saw Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) he was in a terrible film that should remain unmentioned, which is a shame because Pitch Black (2000)- the first film in the trilogy- is really awesome. But long story short, he was left stranded on a seemingly uninhibited alien planet. This film begins with Riddick adjusting to the planet’s climate, environment, terrain, and various forms of alien creatures. He finds, befriends, and breaks-in a dog/jackal-looking alien creature and together they live on a day to day basis for an undisclosed period of time. That dog-thingy is really awesome.

Then one day Riddick brilliantly finds and activates a distress beacon that invites not one but two drop-ships. They contain several mercenaries who belong to different factions, and who have landed there in hopes of finding and capturing Riddick.

Riddick pits all of the mercs against one another while picking them off, one by one. It’s predictable and every single person in the film falls for every single trap that Riddick puts out. It’s not as annoying as it sounds but it sure would have been nicer if these mercs would have been actually smart, which would explain why they’re still alive and proficient in their jobs.

The film is close to 2 hours in length, which I am perfectly fine with because overall, it’s a fun film and because writer/director David Twohy and co-producer Vin Diesel went for an R-rating. And it’s quite something. It’s nice to see a sci-fi film that takes place on faraway planets, inhabited by weird aliens, and also not be afraid to eviscerate its cast in gory fashion. It’s similar to Pitch Black in that regard, but the gore effects here are mostly practical and look much better. I’m no gorehound, far from it. But when it’s done well I can’t help but applaud.

There are a few of twists and turns, like the fact that one of the mercs is the father of a character who’d died during the first film, and that he wants to hear the truth from Riddick’s own mouth. It’s neat, and here it works. It also derails the audience’s attention from the fact the film’s third act is essentially identical to that of the first film’s entire second half. But hey, it’s aliens versus humans versus humans on a weird alien planet and it’s R-rated. What’s not to like?

The supporting cast includes Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica TV series), Jordi Molla (Blow, 2001), Dave Bautista (WWE), Bokeem Woodbine (The Rock, 1996), and a cameo by Karl Urban (Dredd, 2012).

Vin Diesel owns the rights to the Riddick character and had actually passed up a cameo appearance in an earlier “Fast and Furious” film in order to acquire it. As a result, his vision is what brought us this slightly lengthy but entertainingly gory and fun actioner. No, the special effects weren’t designed by ILM and yes, sometimes it’s really noticeable. But the downside would have been another PG-rated piece of fluff.

Conan the Barbarian (1982) was also a hard-R. It’s brutally graphically violent, but honestly, that came with the territory. And the more that I re-watch it the more I love the look of the practical gore and blood effects in it. It makes the film better in the way that it allows for a more mature story to develop without many restrictions. Then Conan the Destroyer (1984) came to be, was unashamedly rated PG, and that was mostly what had lowered the quality of its storytelling and had turned the adventure into a bore. Pitch Black is Conan (1982) and The Chronicles of Riddick (I tried to avoid mentioning it) is Conan (1984). Riddick is its own fun little beast and that’s what makes it worth watching.

The special features are the Unrated Director’s Cut; The Twohy Touch; Riddickian Tech; Vin’s Riddick; Meet the Mercs; The World of Riddick; and Riddick Blindsided.

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