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Riddick

Year: 2013
Studio: Universal
Director: David Twohy
Producer: Vin Diesel/Ted Field
Writer: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Matt Nable, Jordi Molla, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bookeem Woodbine, Karl Urban

When David Twohy pitched The Chronicles of Riddick, they gave him too much money. Riddick proves that, because when he has to move in close on a small handful of characters and use a single alien landscape instead of a whole universe (like he did in Pitch Black), he's sure footed and the result is a very cool sci-fi film with a style all its own. This is the sequel Chronicles should have been.

It's also due to what star Vin Diesel does with the character. When Riddick could be a pat big muscly good guy hero (albeit with some throwaway attributes to make him 'dark' and 'edgy'), he really does have a darkness that's carried over from the first film, where you're reminded that he was a murderer who was only ever out for himself. Crucially, neither Diesel nor Twohy have forgotten the strengths that make him such an adversary to his enemies – he's as much a ninja as he is a wrecking ball.

When the people who crowned him their king in the last film betray him and strand him on another alien planet crawling with nasty beasts, Riddick has to use whatever he can scrape together from the rocky wasteland to survive, fighting off savage wild dogs, vulture-like reptiles and water-borne creatures who have a dramatic pincer that rises slowly from the depths to suddenly strike their victims.

He eventually finds his way to a small way station and activates a distress beacon, bringing two crews down to search for him. Riddick's plan is to stay out of the way, draw them out and pick them off until he can simply take one of the ships to get away. But both teams know who he is and what a price he has on his head, and no sooner has the ragtag mercenary band led by Santana (Molla) landed but they're at loggerheads with the much more professional military unit led by Boss Johns (Nable).

As the two teams strike a very uneasy truce, Riddick stalks the camp like a ghost in the darkness, using his wits, brawn and survivalist skills to gradually deplete the numbers of both teams.

Aside from Diesel's performance, Twohy's script gives everyone else involved enough room to come to life, and even though most of the actors are one note (tough, gung-ho, etc), the script plays to that and almost nobody ends up a faceless minion to be dismissed as soon as they're picked off.

Twohy makes a budget of not even $40m look like $100m on screen. The design, ships and creatures are all well thought out and executed the way sci-fi films used to be, and strong characters do the rest. It's got everything that makes the genre great – monsters, action, good visuals, well-drawn alien landscape, guns and spaceships, even a flash of the extremely sexy Katee Sackhoff topless.

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