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Riddick (2013)

NOTE: Review originally written for and posted at MovieByte.com, and I talked about it with host TJ Draper on Episode 60 of The MovieByte Podcast. To see this post and check out the guys over at MovieByte, click here!

Riddick

I suppose I should preface this review with two things: 1) I did not watch the first two films in this series due to lack of time and interest; 2) I never had any interest in seeing this film. With those items in mind, here I go.

Due to my lack of background on the character, I’ll leave it to IMDB to tell you what the film is about:

Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past.

The entire first twenty minutes or so of the film seem determined to show those new to the franchise (i.e. me) who Riddick is and what he is capable of. We’re treated to scene after scene of this superhuman fighting monster after monster, which would be just fine and dandy if it all didn’t become a bit of a bore. After the first two instances of Riddick defying the odds and cheating death, I thought to myself, “Got it, now let’s move on.” But we didn’t. We still have several more scenes of nothing but him travelling a barren wasteland of a planet, killing strange creatures before they can kill him, with Vin Diesel’s deep growl of a voice providing us with what the character is thinking and how he came to be in the situation where he is. He’s hardcore. I get it. Let’s focus on something else.

When we’re finally introduced to other characters, it’s a bit underwhelming because they aren’t any good. First to appear is the mercenary Santana (Jordi Mollá), who makes it clear to us from the start that his only desire is to cut off Riddick’s head, placing it in a box to collect the substantial bounty on his head. As the film progresses, it becomes evident that the main purpose of his character is to provide a sort of comedic relief, which fails in its attempt to be funny. His banter with Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), who landed with another crew seeking out Riddick, is also a poorly executed aspect, with Dahl’s responses to his often crude comments often consisting of the “F word.” In fact, the F word is used a LOT throughout the film, to the point of exhaustion. I can generally overlook its usage once or twice in a film, but beyond that (and certainly as many times as it’s used here) it becomes an extravagant earsore. The rest of the characters don’t bring much else to the table either; aside from the various lackeys, the only other “main character” is Boss Johns (Matt Nable), leader of the second ship to land on the planet. His motivation for hunting down Riddick is pretty thin; Santana’s want for money is more believable reason to hunt down a man than is Johns’ desire for the truth behind the death of his son (who, Wikipedia tells me, was a character in the first film in the series, Pitch Black).

Aside from the poor characters, the dialogue between them is even worse. Banter is often painful in its attempts at humor, the foul language runs amok, and pacing is pretty slow. I also hated the cinematography of the film, with the CGI looking unrealistic (meaning the CGI creatures were very obviously CGI, not unrealistic in nature) and the over-stylization of the locations reminding me too much of Zack Snyder’s 300, another stylized film that I didn’t like. Last but certainly not least, there is needless nudity at two separate points in the film…it literally serves zero purpose in the context of the film. So there’s that.

This film has its audience. I know that. And I tried to be as open-minded as possible while watching this movie. Though it wasn’t a film I particularly cared to see, I had no pre-conceived notions on its quality, and, because I haven’t seen Pitch Black or The Chronicles of Riddick, I had no frame of reference for just how good or bad it might be. Perhaps its that lack of franchise familiarity that made me dislike the film so much. I’ve been told that Riddick is a better film than its two predecessors, and, if I had seen them first, I’m sure I would have liked this one more than I did by comparison. But I only have the opinion I have, and it’s not a good one: Riddick is incredibly violent, loaded with foul language and poor characters, and, though I’m sure it appeals to certain people who like this kind of film, I’m not one of those people and simply can’t recommend seeing it.

-Chad

Rating: 1 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity


Pain & Gain (2013)

We’ve all heard the criticisms of Michael Bay’s films, from Armageddon to Pearl Harbor to Transformers, but Pain & Gain looked like it just might break the typical Bay mold. Based on a true story of three men who kidnapped, tortured, and murdered several people in Florida in the 1990s, it seemed that this film might focus more on characters and story than on giant things that explode, and, for the most part, it does. Unfortunately, I would have preferred mindless explosions in another Transformers sequel to this incredibly vulgar film.

Here’s the gist of it: Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a bodybuilder working at the Sun Gym in Miami, Florida who wants more out of his life than his dull, lower standard of living. He wants success and money, and, after attending a motivational session by Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong), he decides to become a “do-er” in order to get what he wants. With the help of body-building friends Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), he sets out to scheme one of Sun Gym’s members, Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), out of all of his money, a plan that sends these three men on a crash course that leads to more kidnapping, torture, and murder, ultimately ending with their arrest.

It had a lot of potential. For the most part, I think that the story aspect of this film is quite interesting; true story films always are. However, Bay has made almost a farce out of what is a tragic true story, making light of the actions of these criminals and the consequences of those actions. People died and lives were ruined, yet Bay tries to make it a comedy. While I don’t think that the whole thing should have necessarily been played with a straight face and that humor always has its place, I think that there should have been a cap on the humor presented in the film so that the whole thing is not played off as a joke. Aside from that, the jokes that were in the film never struck me as all that funny, though I must admit that I did laugh a few times.

I also must admit that the performance of the lead characters (the trio and Shalhoub) were admirable; they each played their characters quite well, though Johnson’s portrayal of a born-again Christian who thinks of himself as a gift from God is a bit bothersome to me. Wahlberg’s conviction in the role and occasionally (appropriately) over-the-top character is different from anything I have ever seen him do before, and Mackie’s character was also appropriately hyperactive.

Now I mustn’t get ahead of myself. My overall opinion of this film is negative, no matter what I thought of how interesting the plot could have been or how well the lead actors performed, and it’s all because of one thing: vulgarity. LOTS OF VULGARITY. Everything vulgar you could think of is present in this film: excessive bad language, gore, unnecessary sexual content (no sex, just nudity and toys), etc. All of this combined almost made the film completely unwatchable; the two people I watched it with absolutely hated the film, and, though I enjoyed bits of it, I will never again watch it willingly – that’s how bad it was.

You be the judge. If you can handle all of this vulgarity and don’t mind that Bay has made a joke of a serious series of events, you may enjoy this film, but I wouldn’t recommend it. As stated above, had this movie been a bit more on the PG-13 side of things, I might have walked out of the theater feeling a bit differently, but, Pain & Gain is a film that is definitely worth missing out on, especially if you can’t look past the overwhelmingly obscene aspects of the movie as a whole. Michael Bay started to take a step in the right direction, but I’ll take Transformers over this trash any day.

-Chad

Rating: 1 (out of 5)

MPAA: R –  for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use