Here’s a few things I bet you didn’t know:
1) Vin Diesel is 46 years old.
2) When I was 17, I took a girl named Jordan to see Pitch Black, the first film in the Riddick franchise.
3) She wanted to see The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
4) We didn’t get married.
That was 14 calendars ago. And you know what? Leo is still boyish and Vin Diesel is still bald. Also, Vin Diesel still makes movies about Richard B. Riddick, an escaped convict of the distant future with burnt pupils and night vision who constantly finds himself marooned on destitute and dangerous planets at the far reaches of the galaxy. Which leads us to the third (and hopefully final) installment to the Riddick lexicon, Riddick. (Yes, they took a cue from Rambo with the eponymous sequel title, only they upped the ante and did it for part three as opposed to four.)
OK, alright, let’s get serious. You might be asking of me, “Why review a movie you obviously couldn’t like?” Well, because that’s not the case. I like Pitch Black. Quite a bit, actually. It’s a quirky, dark, sci-fi-action flick with more than enough panache to satisfy fans of the genre. And while I skipped The Chronicles of Riddick in 2004, I figured Riddick would hold up well enough.
But I figured wrong.
The story goes as follows: Having successfully bested the Necromongers on the planet Helion to become Lord Marshall of the Necro throne, Riddick is betrayed by the very Necromongers he conquered, leaving him once again left for dead on a little-known, weather-beaten planet out in the great beyond. Battered and bruised, surrounded by myriad hyena-like jumbo dogs and scorpion-tailed bog creatures, Riddick rises from the ashes, fighting his way to a livable existence. And that’s the first half-hour of the movie; Riddick fighting wild dogs and swamp things, I shit you not. Then, after nabbing a wild pup to raise as his own, Riddick and his scorched-earth hound take to the planetary wasteland. They come across a seemingly abandoned mercenary outpost only to be surprised from above by—you guessed it—mercenaries, hot on Riddick’s villainous trail.
I think it’s worth mentioning here that I have no problem with Vin Diesel as an actor or an action hero. Sure, he’s one-dimensional, but it’s a pretty good dimension. He’s got the deep voice, the rugged physique and those intimidating, bald-headed good looks. I’d even go as far to say that he’s a fairly decent actor, given the field. But upon the arrival of the first band of mercenaries, it’s blatantly obvious that all the Diesel-y machismo in this world or any other can’t save Riddick from a script worthy of the fireplace and a supporting cast begging for SAG card revocations. The head “merc” is Santana (Jordi Mollà), an evil rapist/killer. Only trouble is that Mollà, who was pretty damn good in Blow a decade ago, stinks as the bad boy, and is something akin to a very poor man’s Peter Stormare with a Central American accent.
Anyway, Santana and his henchman claim they’re going to put Riddick’s “head in a box,” and are just about to set out doing so when a second band of mercs arrive on the scene. This motley but professional-looking crew is led by Boss Johns (Matt Nable), the father of some other merc Riddick supposedly killed on some other planet. Johns is side-kicked by Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), a beautiful, broad-shouldered, big-breasted blonde that kicks ass, takes names, (insert cliché here) and doesn’t “fuck guys.”
The plot from this point forward is completely irrelevant and consists mainly of mercs trying to kill Riddick, Riddick in turn killing mercs, and whatever and what have you and so on and so forth. At some interval Santana kills Riddick’s dog, which prompts Riddick to later return the favor by kicking a machete, while chained, into Santana’s face, cutting his head in half and into the very box meant for Riddick’s. So I guess that was pretty cool. And while I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, let’s just say the bog scorpions play a key role in the film’s titillating finale. Oh, and toward the end Riddick comments on the color of Dahl’s nipples and says he’s gonna go “balls deep.”
So you might say Riddick is Vin Diesel’s greatest role since Saving Private Ryan. But I don’t care what anybody says: He’ll always be Private Caparzo to me.