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Don't be Riddick'-ulous

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Riddick Riddick

So they went ahead and made another Riddick movie.

'Who's Riddick?' is the question many of you may be asking, and with good reason the character last appeared in 2004's forgettable 'The Chronicles of Riddick' after first popping up as the heavy in the well-received 'Pitch Black' back in 2000.

This latest offering in the series assuming you can call it a series when you go a decade between films is titled 'Riddick.' Fair enough. It stars Vin Diesel ('Fast & Furious 6') as the titular Riddick, an escaped convict/murderer/general space baddie who can see in the dark.

This film finds Riddick stranded on a hostile planet; the only human on a world populated by all manner of crazy space monsters, from flying lizard things to angry zebra dingos to venomous amphibious scorpion-type things.

Being the notorious space criminal that he is, there's still a significant bounty on Riddick's head. So when he stumbles upon an abandoned mercenary station on this desolate planet, he triggers the emergency beacon, figuring that when it scans him to send the distress call, word will get out about where he is. The plan seems to be that when the bounty hunters come running, Riddick can steal their ship and try to find his way home.

And if he has to murder some of them along the way, so be it.

Two different teams show up. One is led by the greedy and bloodthirsty Santana (Jordi Molla, 'Columbiana'); they're a ragtag bunch looking to cash in a big payday. The other is led by the seemingly upstanding Johns (Matt Nable, 'Killer Elite'), who is seeking answers for the death of his son a death for which he believes Riddick responsible.

Unfortunately for them, Riddick is less than cooperative with those who would chop his head off and put it in a box. Before long, the two groups find themselves forced to work together in the face of Riddick's dead-of-night onslaughts. And when it turns out that Riddick might not be exactly who they think he is, even more questions are raised and unlikely alliances are forged when a common enemy makes itself known.

It's easy to forget that Vin Diesel is the headliner for more than one film franchise after all, they've made what seems like 87 'Fast and Furious' movies since the last time Riddick appeared almost a decade ago. Odds are good that even the most engaged fans of the character have let all but the most basic details fade from their memories over the past nine years.

And yet the movie works.

There's no denying that Diesel has significant screen presence. It's the sort of charisma that is never going to work in, say, a Merchant/Ivory costume drama, but for popcorn flicks featuring muscle cars or CGI alien monsters, it fits perfectly. And Riddick is a rarity an antihero that an audience can genuinely root for. He's a bad guy, but he's positioned to be better than the rest.

As for the rest of the cast meh. They're fine; other than a few vaguely recognizable 'that guy' types, there's no one particularly memorable. Frankly, the second-best performance in the film might belong to the CGI space dog that Riddick befriends at the beginning of the movie. The rest are more or less grist for the mill, fodder to be brutalized by Riddick and/or the hostile alien monsters.

All that aside, 'Riddick' is a surprisingly enjoyable movie. It has no pretensions, no delusions about what it is. It is straightforward sci-fi action that plays it straight without ever becoming too self-serious. While I would hesitate to go so far as to call it good, there's no denying its entertainment value. If you have fond memories of the previous films or just dig on the idea of Vin Diesel knifing space mercenaries and punching alien lizards you'll have fun with 'Riddick.'

[2.5 out of 5]

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