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Ten Word or Less Review – 50% less Riddick?  What?!?

Vin Diesel has been busy making Universal Studios $1.7 billion.  In 2009, with his career staled and not many options left, not even a Pacifier sequel on his plate, he crawled back to the car chase franchise he started and salvaged it and himself from total ruin.  With that much money in the til because of his bald head and gravel voice Universal decided to pony up and let Diesel make another Riddick flick, even though the last one, Chronicles of Riddick (2004), blew up in their face like a faulty hand grenade.  Letting Diesel and director David Twohy back into their sick little universe with a limited budget and something to prove should have been a no-brainer.  Not much money, nothing to lose, go batshit guys!  If you lose your ass we’ll make it back on Fast 7.  But sadly, this inexplicable series of movies has probably reached its end.  Riddick is the last thing it ever needed to be, a retread of the first movie.

Riddick doesn’t waste time.  With his hand sticking out of a pile of rocks the injured pseudo-psycho grabs the neck of a pecking vulture thing and promptly strangles it to death.  If Riddick has one thing to commend it’s the first act.  The opening pages of the screenplay are crafty, focused and concise.  The story dispatches with the unconstrained nonsense of Chronicles fairly quickly, letting us know that Riddick has been betrayed and abandoned on a hostile world by the silly costumed Necromongers.  The first half hour of the movie is a pure survival tale, building towards a sort of sci-fi styled The Grey.  Riddick uses craft and ingenuity to survive and no real plot takes shape.  He rescues a vicious little hyena/dog creature and makes it his pet.  He inoculates himself against the poisonous critters that live in the watering hole.  It’s all pretty fucking cool, for a while, and Diesel clearly relishes playing this character to the hilt.  Then with the flick of a switch, literally, Riddick kills itself.

Before long the Rid Man realizes the hostile alien environment is about to become a nasty soup of hungry alien beasties.  He activates a beacon and right away two teams of mercenaries show up to do two things, catch him and ruin the movie. They only succeed at the second thing.  For a solid 30+ minutes, in a move which grows with stupidity the more I dwell on it, the movie hands the story over to this lot of dummies with guns and commences to watch them bicker among themselves.  Did Diesel demand a vacation in the middle of production?  How did this happen?  It’s instant narrative death the minute their boots hit the ground.  The movie flirts with turning Riddick into a Jason/Freddy type, dispatching one dumb goon after another through increasingly grotesque methods, but the idea never takes hold.  I could have lived with that, Hell it could have been a hoot, but it wasn’t meant to be.  The Riddster is ostensibly gone from his own movie, not to appear again until you’ve given up on the thing.  The third act tries to make amends but it turns into is a retread of the first film we never needed to see.  Diesel and Twohy were clearly gung ho about avoiding this kind of creative bankruptcy in the past so why their story suddenly turned chicken shit is beyond me.

Pitch Black dodged going straight to DVD by the skin of its teeth and through the skill and tenacity with which it was made became a well regarded cult hit.  Chronicles of Riddick wasn’t good for much but it had the audacity to be totally different from the original and completely fucking goofy to boot.  Time has been kind to it as it works better on TV than it did in theaters.  It kind of looks like a fancy schmancy movie for TNT anyway.  I don’t see any kind of forgiving future for Riddick.  It’s got it’s moments, the machete kick, but the gaps between those moments are long, crushing and dull.  Maybe this character can continue on regardless.  Maybe this series is destined to be just like its central character, an indestructible force that no amount of stupidity can kill off.  At the least, another billion bucks in Fast & Furious money should get another one off the ground.  If so, do better next time guys.  And don’t forget, we’re there for Riddick.  Everyone else should be there to say as little as possible before he kills them.



Ten Word or Less Review – Shifting down.

I got to this shindig late.  I didn’t see a F&F movie until the semi-glorious delirium that was the fifth entry in the series.  It was like showing up to a party that was at its zenith.  Everyone and everything is peaking as you walk in the door.  Maybe you missed something  by getting there late, but no matter what it was it isn’t going to match what’s going on now.  So if the fifth movie was the peak, this new entry is the first stage of the come down.  That isn’t to say that the party still isn’t rocking.  The music is loud and people are still having a good time, but that guy who was break dancing in the kitchen an hour ago is passed out on the couch.  The music is starting to drone on the ears.  There’s a bimbo with a lampshade on her head, two people pass out while kissing and the first signs of burnout are creeping into the scene.

To cut to the chase, bloat and backstory are what’s keeping this vehicle stuck in 2nd, okay 3rd, gear.  This franchise has become so overpopulated with characters and soap opera plot that things are starting to take on a faint scent of Days of Our Lives.  Dead characters coming back to life who now have amnesia?  I thought this series of movies was about car chases.  There are plenty of those.  The usual gratuitous mayhem this series specializes in.  The first half of the movie is loaded with chases which feel fun and functional but never truly inspired.  Even after just one movie this viewer was struck by how common place all the mayhem feels.  The best stuff though is jammed into the last half hour.  I’ll give the creative brain trust credit for wowing us in the end.  The hilarity is palpable as characters all the basically become gravity defying superheroes.  Vin Diesel should just start wearing a red cape with a big D on his chest at this point.  How invincibly macho is he?  He gets shot and doesn’t bleed.  That’s pretty fucking macho.

What separates these two workable sections of cartoon movie carnage, and kind of screws up the movie altogether, is a deadly dull second act where characters travel the world while blathering about the deadly dull plot.  Everyone is running around chasing a bad guy who wants a billion dollar widget or trying to figure out why Michelle Rodriguez isn’t dead.  Answer?  Narrative desperation.  The movie expends tons of effort jetting characters from England to Spain and back to England and back to Spain and even sends one character all the way to America for 10 minutes for no compelling reason at all.  Why weren’t these people jet lagged?  There’s enough gas in this thing for a 90 minute movie, tops.  Fast 6 runs a very bloated 130 minutes.

Fast and Furious fans will surely be happy with this entry in their inexhaustible and inexplicable franchise.  Those who haven’t made the effort to get into this ludicrous series of movies aren’t going to find much reason to start now.  While it’s already clear that this series will continue to burn nitro into the future, part 7 next summer!, I’m guessing that the wheels are about to come flying off.  Long time series director Justin Lin is jumping ship.  The next movie is rushing to meet a street date.  And worst of all, part 6 flaunts the coming presence of Jason Statham as the next baddie for the series.  If the presence of Jason Statham is supposed to genuinely excite the audience then a wrong turn has already been made.