“Riddick,” a movie that might have been titled “A Diesel and his Digital Dingo Dog,” is built to mirror the signature traits of its star. Like Vin Diesel, it has bulk, lumbering clumsily along as it repeats Diesel’s greatest hits – the ones that don’t require him to drive a fast and furious car.
It’s the third movie in Diesel’s career-making “Pitch Black” (2000) trilogy, roughly – very roughly – picking up where 2004’s “The Chronicles of Riddick” left off.
The human convict has been dumped and left for dead on a planet covered with desert and just enough water holes to survive. And it’s all just a tad ... familiar.
Riddick narrates his saga, his new life on a place where “the whole damned planet wanted a piece of me.” Yeah, there are beastly birds and eels and scorpion-like monsters that come out when it rains.
Familiar. Except for the dogs, deep-space dingoes or hyenas, one of whom he befriends and trains to be his pal.
It’s just him and the dog until he stumbles across a “mercenary post,” where he sends out a distress call, luring two competing teams of bounty hunters, which he can then pick off, one by one. Jordi Molla and and Matt Nable are the feuding mercenary bosses who long to collect the price on Riddick’s head – and only his head. But they aren’t hearing Riddick’s narration. He tries to warn them.
“It’s always the punch you don’t see coming that puts you down.”
Diesel is wholly engaged in the project, unlike the last few “Furious” pictures, where sleepwalking was allowed. He grimaces through Riddick’s self-surgery, scowls as he fights various digital beasts, and turns all David Caruso with Riddick’s omnipresent sunglasses.
The supporting players are mainly here to be sadists, and the fetchingly brawny Katee Sackoff, as a lesbian mercenary aptly named “Dahl,” stands out in that crew.
But this is a slow, unexciting thriller lacking the edge-of-the-seat suspense of “Pitch Black.” The story arc – convict redeems himself by killing monsters and saving people – is the same, but there’s no snap to it.
Idiotically, Diesel and his collaborator in all things Riddick, writer-director David Twohy, expect us to remember details from the first two films – not blockbusters, from a decade ago – and to care that they conned Karl Urban into a thankless cameo reprising a role he played in “The Chronicles of Riddick.”
But as bad movies go, you could do worse than having Diesel growl at a bunch of tough hombres who are already counting the bounty money they’ll collect for his head, sunglasses and all: “Will it be enough to pay for your funerals?”