With his macho clout restored and his tanks refueled with “Fast & Furious 6” juice, Vin Diesel makes a game stab at resurrecting his pet character, the glowering Furyan antihero Richard B. Riddick, in a stripped-down, throwback third episode of “Riddick.”
After launching with the muscular, B-movie starkness of 2000's “Pitch Black,” the would-be franchise got badly bogged down in the self-serious mythologizing and bloated, mock-epic extravagance of 2004's “The Chronicles of Riddick.” Now, Diesel, who reportedly helped conceive the character with writer-director David Twohy based on a favored “Dungeons and Dragons” figure of his youth, has literally mortgaged his house to help finance this third go at keeping the scrappy series alive.
“Riddick” unfolds in three distinct chapters, with the first finding our weary, morose warrior left for dead on a blighted desert planet far from his beloved Furya (a barren place that the taciturn Riddick describes as “Not Furya”). This grimly artful and nearly wordless sequence aptly shows off Diesel's virile charisma as he holds the screen alone while Riddick gathers his strength and fends off all manner of snarling beasties to gain dominance over his environment. Even with its wonky, low-budget CGI effects, this chapter is powerfully compelling.
Then Diesel fades to the shadowy fringes in chapter two, as two competing bands of bounty hunters show up, determined to take Riddick's head home on a pike. The scuzzier gang of mercenaries is led by a thug named Santana (Jordi Molla), while the by-the-book band is commanded by the stoic Boss Johns (Matt Nable, a rugby footballer turned actor).
As Riddick plays cat and mouse with these generic foes, the film throws off distinct echoes of “Pitch Black,” with loads of “Alien” vibes flying around here and there.
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