Vin Diesel is moving backwards. Having resumed leading man duties in the fourth, fifth and sixth installments of the Fast and Furious franchise, it was recently announced he will also be returning to the role of extreme secret agent Xander Cage for a third xXx movie. It is by no means a bad career move, Fast and Furious 6 made around £150 million this year, so clearly there is a market for his brand of mumbling tough guy. Riddick sees him reprise his most controversial role, Richard B. Riddick, a callous and cold anti-hero. The character debuted in 2000’s Pitch Black, which proved to be a low budget sleeper hit. Nearly ten years have passed since its bloated follow up, The Chronicles of Riddick, that nearly torpedoed the franchise back in 2004. But Riddick is a survivor and now this third installment emerges from the shadows.

After the failure of The Chronicles of Riddick, which barely made back it’s substantial budget, this latest chapter is an attempt to reset the franchise, rediscovering what made it popular in the first place. In a sense, it is a metaphor for Diesel’s career; returning to what you know after a failed experiment. In the spirit of honouring the past, Riddick follows a remarkably similar template to Pitch Black, as the premise involves a rag-tag group in an hostile environment facing threats from human and alien enemies.

Originality is not one its strong points. In trying to recapture the formula that made Pitch Black so successful, director David Twohy seems to have travelled too far back in time. Over-the-top baddies with foreign accents, some less than stellar special effects (Riddick’s canine companion is particularly distracting), and dialogue that reads like it has been put through Google translate, make it feel like a 1980’s action throwback. Sadly their attitude towards women also feels like it’s from a bygone era, with the debasement of Katee Sackhoff’s strong-minded Dahl raising eyebrows, not to mention the numerous gratuitous shots of topless women. You could be forgiven for thinking it was directed by a teenage boy.

That being said, once the action gets going it is fast paced, often exciting, and satisfyingly gruesome, with Diesel managing to recapture some of the sinister charisma that made the character appealing in the first place. It has not been Diesel’s most successful trip down memory lane, but there is enough intrigue with the character, as well as some stellar set-pieces to file this one under guilty pleasures.

Michael Clancy