If you were to make a comedy about an actor who makes cheesy sci-fi action movies, and you needed a hilarious clip of his work that underscored the awfulness of his output, just about any 30-second segment of “Riddick” would do the trick.
All the elements of parody are here: Ridiculous first-person narration that quickly disappears, an adorable but deadly canine sidekick, ridiculous macho posturing, under- and over-acting of inane dialogue (by director David Twohy) and laughably artificial matte backgrounds and special effects. Were it not for the eviscerations and the rough language, this could be a segment on a Nickelodeon sketch comedy show.
After the horrible reviews of “The Chronicles of Riddick,” one wouldn’t imagine that Vin Diesel‘s bad-ass super-alien would make it back for a third appearance — the character first turned up in the leaner, meaner “Pitch Black” — but Universal apparently wants to keep him happy between “Fast and the Furious” installments, so we’re back in outer space once again.
If nothing else, someone obviously learned after the disastrous “Chronicles” that this character doesn’t lend himself to overblown storytelling and an intricate backstory. The one thing that “Riddick” does right is to strip things down to a basic cat-and-mouse manhunt tale, almost like a remake of “Predator” in which Predator is the hero and the pesky human hunters are the bad guys.
We dispense with the “Chronicles” stuff early on — Riddick is betrayed by Karl Urban and his guyliner and finds himself stranded on the Planet of Fakey Backdrops and Hungry Carnivores. In no time, he’s made himself invulnerable to the venom of the local scorpion-lizard-manta beasts and domesticated one of the planet’s dingo-raptor animals into a traveling companion.
Finding an abandoned bounty hunter outpost, Riddick deploys the homing beacon, knowing that it will reveal his location to any number of mercenaries hungry for the reward on him. (The captor gets a double prize for bringing back Riddick dead.) The first team to arrive is a scurvy bunch led by Santana (played by too-good-for-this Spanish actor Jordi Mollà), but his group is soon joined by a second team, whose commander Boss Johns (Matt Nable) has his own reasons for wanting to hunt down Riddick.
Riddick’s plan is to steal one of the ships and kill anyone who gets in his way, which leads to an extended segment of psyching out his pursuers and picking off the actors with the worst agents. The upside to this is that Diesel is off the screen for significant portions of time — because really, his CG irises out-act him throughout the film — but the downside is that the bounty hunters are two-dimensional and hackneyed, even the ones played by reasonably competent performers like Katee Sackhoff, Nolan Gerard Funk (“The Canyons”) and Bokeem Woodbine.
If “Riddick” had managed to inject any thrills or pleasure or wit or excitement into what is a pure genre exercise, then its excesses and lapses could be easily overlooked. But this just isn’t any fun, when fun was all it ever had to be.
Vin Diesel has found a perfect niche for himself in the increasingly delirious and entertaining “Fast and the Furious” series. If “Riddick” is the best he can come up with in his off-hours, both he and the audience would be better served if he took up macramé instead.