Perhaps the most dangerous man in the universe, Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) can apparently survive poisonous, water-dwelling monsters and trigger-happy bounty hunters, as well as the terrible "The Chronicles of Riddick," released nine years ago.
Diesel returns for this third movie that somehow manages to satisfyingly re-create the successful formula of the original "Pitch Black" from 2000. That was a small-scale action-sci-fi movie set in one place and focusing mostly on the characters.
Then, director David Twohy spent four times its budget on the 2004 sequel and completely lost track of what made the first film work so well.
The new "Riddick" begins on the heels of the last one: Riddick was briefly the ruler of the Necromongers before being betrayed and cast out onto a godforsaken planet crawling with ravenous beasties.
In a nearly wordless opening section, Riddick heals a broken leg, tames a doglike creature and immunizes himself to the poison of the water monsters.
Realizing his time is up, he activates a beacon that summons several bounty hunters. He hopes to kill them all and steal a ship, but before long it becomes apparent that the humans need to work together to avoid an even more brutal force.
Twohy and co-screenwriters Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell create a cool gallery of colorful characters, each with his or her own place in the world.
Standouts are the vivacious Santana (Jordi Molla), the sober Boss Johns (Matt Nable), and the beautiful badass Dahl (Katee
Amazingly, they're all shown to be thinking characters, using their heads to try and stay one step ahead of Riddick, even if that's ultimately impossible.
After the setup, when the other humans arrive, the movie keeps Riddick offscreen for large portions, which helps build his legend, similar to the trick Orson Welles played in "The Third Man." As the characters talk about him, they build him up in our minds, and when he actually appears, he seems larger than life.
Twohy ("Below," "A Perfect Getaway") keeps proving himself worthy of these kinds of solid, medium-budget-genre movies. His action usually takes place in a limited space, with very simple ideas and goals.
The monsters in "Riddick" are not the most spectacular visual effects of the year, but they get the job done much better than many more expensive movies.
Indeed, by aiming lower and coming closer to the target, "Riddick" is ultimately more successful and enjoyable than most of this past summer's big blockbusters.REVIEW Riddick *** Starring Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Bokeem Woodbine Written by David Twohy, Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat Directed by David Twohy Rated R Running time 1 hour, 59 minutes