A ludicrous script is usually the hurdle you find yourself trying to jump in an effort to enjoy an action-heavy science fiction in the character of Riddick. Surprisingly, it isn't the story that holds Vin Diesel's third Richard Riddick movie back, but what launches it forward through a dust cloud of other shortcomings and malfeasances. Kicking off with a wordless first act involving the lone criminal's determination to survive on a wasteland planet and progressing very gradually toward and through an intergalactic bounty hunter team's stakeout for the wanted man, we find ourselves adhering reluctantly to the slow-burning but densely packed drama. It'll get you. The claustrophic, death-on-the-horizon mission facing the band of lowlifes hunting down Riddick — and the intercepting troupe of more ostensibly "righteous" law enforcement officials (there's a guy who speaks calmly, a woman, and a kid who prays, so you know they're the good ones) — coughs up pissing contests, gender politics, and strategy debates in the valley of meaty sociological sci-fi like classic Star Trek episodes. Meanwhile, Diesel is hiding out in the adjacent caves, plotting his next move.
After a uniquely primal introductory chapter, wherein we're engrossed by the vivid hell that is "Not Furya" (Riddick's affectionate name for the world within which he is prisoner) in the same way that we connect to the first chapter of 2001: A Space Odyssey, we're relieved to welcome in some new characters (and, of course, actual dialogue). While Diesel can muster charisma taunting Jordi Mollà's bounty hunter creep Santana or Matt Nable's stoic (with a breaking point) officer Johns, he's not the sort of actor who can carry long stretches of wordless, pensive survival on his own. Luckily, he gets a dog pretty early on, so that picks things up a bit.
But problems are not absent when the film duodecuples its population. Once the talking kicks up, so does the occasional weaving of mythos. Even those familiar with the old films will find themselves boggled by the convoluted, cantankerous backstory building that pops in obligatorily, wishing that the film would just get back to the quavering stakeout. However, there is a far bigger issue at hand.
While the heated issues presented Within the tiny world of the battling teams sent to the planet to hunt down Riddick are a banquet for the viewer, some of the problems actually traverse beyond the screen, and All of them involve sole female player Katee Sackhoff and her character Dahl. It says everything that the only woman in this film bears a handle that is homophonous to "Doll." While we can expect the no nonsense officer to be treated with a dearth of respect (and worse) by money hungry, lustful bounty man Santiago, the film itself doesn't seem to have a much more forgivable attitude toward the character, her gender, or her sexual orientation (which is, inscrutably, one of the most revisited topics of conversation).
Present through the movie as soon as Dahl steps onscreen, Riddick's misogyny will get in the way of its otherwise enjoyable and interesting foray into gritty sci-fi, but stands as its sole indefensible problem. Had a more diligent, progressive eye in the edit bay relinquished David Twohy's screenplay of this outrageously persistent repulsion, we might have a film altogether triumphant. With a cherished character readily available for returning fans and a new stock of interesting set-ups for any genre aficionado, not to mention palpable tension — and, yes, the dog — Riddick really only suffers from its misshapen approaches toward gender and sexuality. It's one problem, but it's a damn big one.
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Once respected NYPD detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is now pretty much on his last legs literally and figuratively. He drinks is relegated to a desk job and walks with a limp. One morning after a long shift he’s corralled into transporting a petty criminal Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to the courthouse 16 blocks away so he can testify by 10:00 a.m. What Jack doesn’t know is that Eddie is one of the key witnesses in a case against crooked cops--that is until the two start getting shot at. Then it becomes crystal clear. The main bad guy Jack’s former partner Frank (David Morse) basically lets Jack know Eddie will never testify to just go ahead and hand him over but Frank underestimates Jack’s desire to finally do something good. So Jack and Eddie fight their way to the courthouse block by gut-wrenching block. Oh no there’s nothing formulaic about 16 Blocks not at all. In a film as predictable as this the only thing that’ll make it stand out is the performances. 16 Blocks nearly succeeds--but not quite. It would seem Willis is playing a character he’s played a hundred times before--the misunderstood and slightly unorthodox cop with a heart of gold. But as Jack the actor does a nice job trying out some new things namely playing fat bald and grizzled. You can almost smell how bad Jack’s breath has to be. Rapper/actor Mos Def who usually brightens any film he’s in also tries his hand at something different but his choices aren’t as smart. As the talkative and affable Eddie Mos comes up with one of the more annoying nasally accents ever recorded. After about five minutes of screen time you desperately want him to stop and say “Just kidding! I don’t really talk like this.” But he doesn’t. It’s too bad something like an accent can ruin an otherwise decent performance. Old-school director Richard Donner best known for his Lethal Weapons is a consummate professional when it comes to making these kind of movies. In other words he pretty much paints by numbers. We watch Jack and Eddie get out of one tight situation after another as the gaggle of bad cops try to gun them down. I mean 16 blocks doesn’t seem that far to go so they better throw in as many highly implausible obstacles as they can. Chinese laundries alleyways rooftops subways. And yes even a city bus which the pair--who have by now bonded big time--has to hijack. Donner also employs a popular but nonetheless annoying technique of zooming in when the action heats up so you can’t really see what’s going on. Even if you’re addicted to action movies--a Bruce Willis action movie no less--16 Blocks just doesn’t deliver the goods.