Riddick - Vin Diesel as Richard B Riddick

Vin Diesel’s fugitive convict antihero went flabby in 2004’s overblown space opera The Chronicles of Riddick, which saw him partnered with the unlikeliest of sci-fi co-stars – Judi Dench.

Thankfully, his new adventure, Riddick, is a return to the lean B-movie thrills of 1999’s Pitch Black and finds him back in fighting form.

The first film’s director, David Twohy, is at the helm, too, and he’s savvy enough to revert to formula: a fearsomely inhospitable planet, hordes of ferocious monsters and a small cast of disposable supporting characters to be whittled down in bursts of gory action.

To begin with, though, Diesel’s double-crossed and stranded Riddick is alone on the planet, growling his way through a hard-boiled voice-over that suggests his protagonist had a past life as a Chandleresque private eye. With only a tamed ‘dingo-dongo’ jackal-type critter for company, his solo turn is surprisingly engaging.

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But having survived various brushes with the lethal local fauna, he needs a spaceship to effect his escape and sets off a beacon that alerts two teams of bounty hunters to come seeking his capture, one led by Jordi Mollà’s machete-wielding scuzzball, Santana, who wants Riddick’s head in a box; the other by Matt Nable’s unyielding mercenary, Boss Johns, who has a more personal reason for going after his prey.

Sure enough, luminous-eyed, night-seeing Riddick promptly trims their numbers. Yet, as with the earlier film, these brief skirmishes are but tasters for the monster mayhem to come. As fans will recall, Pitch Black’s deadly creatures emerged when its planet got dark; Riddick’s ‘mud demons’ appear when its world gets wet. And a storm is coming…

Using a mix of CGI and animatronics, Twohy stages the ensuing action with a flair that belies his film’s relatively modest $38million budget. His most striking special effect, though, is the glowering Diesel, although Battlestar Galactica star Katee Sackhoff’s lithe laconic sniper, Dahl, almost matches him in the badass stakes.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 119 mins. Director David Twohy.

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