This supernatural, sci-fi, futuristic thriller suggests that fundamentalist
zealotry is taking over the universe. These are dark forces called
Necromongers, being led by the religious leader, Lord Marshal (Colm Feore),
and he's bent on converting humanity on all planets to his faith. As a
pretty near all powerful semi-godlike figure, he's got but one Achilles' heel.
It's been preordained that he can only be taken down by a Furian. So, he
pretty much wiped out the entire race in order to protect himself against his
sole weakness. But there's one Furian survivor who is strong enough to do
the job. Riddick.
Richard B. Riddick, the outlaw, comes to us from "Pitch Black", a previous
collaboration between Vin Diesel and writer-director David Twohy ("Below").
He may not have the supernatural powers of his arch enemy, Lord Marshal, but
he's no fluff ball. Trouble is, he's also inclined to be a hermit who
dearly wants to be left alone, and a bit of a bad boy when it comes to
popular causes. The mistake the really bad guys make is pissing him off,
like putting a bounty on his head.
So he cops the bounty hunter's aircraft and makes for Helion Prime, the
planetary HQ for the Necros. His mission is a purely personal one -- to get
the contract on him cancelled. Or else. And, therein lies the tale... and
the battle against forced worship and enslavement.
The notion of being a loner conflicts with his deep feelings for Kyra
(Alexa Davalos), a very tough and athletically acrobatic lady who is almost
as deadly as Riddick, the man she admires above all others. So, why doesn't
he want to track her down more than he wants to remain on his planet
unmolested. In any case, his venture into the lair of the all too powerful
villains brings him to her, where they get all the chances they want to kick
Diesel is an actor with his own unique gifts. He may not have all the
internal shadings of, say, a Jeff Bridges, but he does command the screen
with a greater than average strongman's capacity for emotion and thought. He
is worthy of the stardom he's attained. "The Fast and the Furious" was elevated from simplistic gang
territoriality by virtue of his quality of character complexity. Director
Twohy exploits that for all its worth in this actioner.
As he does another of my favorite unheralded and underused actresses, the
fetching, seductive Thandie Newton. With a mere 16 or so film roles before
this one, she appears this year in two, both calling for wily, evil ambition.
First as a relentlessly scheming grifter in "Shade" and here as Dame Vaako, the partner of the
Necromonger commander (Karl Urban) whom she plays "Lady Macbeth" for. In
full sensual foxiness and provocative garb, she is a smashing vamp who awaits
the chance to make her guy the seventh Lord Marshal. Her anger, when she's
thwarted, is a sight that steams with carnality.
The colorful and adventure-supporting cast also includes Keith David, a
cleric who projects a vestige of dignity within the prevailing culture by
remaining compassionate; Nick Chinlund as Toombs, the mercenary who thinks
he's capable of capturing Riddick on a permanent basis and make some money;
Yorick van Wageningen, the warden on the planet Crematoria who would be the
none-too-scrupulous contractor to pay the money for his new and dangerous
inmate; and, Judi Dench as Aereon, as vaporous a figure as her name
Hugh Johnson provided the exceptional cinematography for a state-of-the-art
computer graphic team that brings high concept and seamlessly inventive
images to the design of other worlds, its machinery, its CGI beasts, its
evil menace. It may not stand up to earthbound critical demands but there's
plenty here to keep the action fan in orbit.
~~ Jules Brenner