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‘This ain’t nothing new,’ but latest ‘Riddick’ returns to roots

VDiesel stars as Riddick ultramacho adventures interplanetary tough guy latest installment series.

Vin Diesel stars as Riddick, the ultramacho adventures of the interplanetary tough guy, in the latest installment of the series.

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Riddick Vin Diesel

Jordi Mollà Karl Urban

Boss Johns Dave Bautista

Dahl Katie Sackhoff

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by David Twohy and written by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell. Running time: 119 minutes. Rated R (for some violence, language, some sexual content and nudity). Opens Friday.

Nearly ten years after being sidetracked by the overblown box-office dud “Chronicles of Riddick,” the ultramacho adventures of the interplanetary tough guy continue with a stripped-down installment in the spirit of the no-nonsense series debut.

Of course, you might consider the whole idea of a series of films devoted to the travails of a bald, basically unkillable, planet-hopping badass to be nonsense and in that case, friend, back away. Fans of lean, mean, testosterone-steeped sci-fi action are likely to find “Riddick” kind of a blast, however — even though it offers few surprises.

As a matter of fact, “This ain’t nothing new” is one of the first statements uttered by the indestructible anti-hero (in star Vin Diesel’s laconic, low-frequency growl) when he finds that he’s once again stranded and forced to fight for his life on an inhospitable planet — much the same situation he faced in the stylish series opener “Pitch Black.” After being deposed as reluctant ruler of the world-conquering Necromongers (see installment two), Riddick has been “scratched off the list and left for dead” on an unnamed desert planet apparently inhabited only by carrion birds, hyena-wolf hybrids and amphibious scorpion-serpent monsters. In other words, just his kind of hangout.

The film gets off to an impressive start during the first half hour as Riddick acclimates himself to his new surroundings (after setting his own broken leg and holding it in place by jamming a couple of metal spikes into the bone) — eating raw eels, making a pet of a hyena-wolf puppy and teaching the serpent-scorpions a thing or two mano-a-monstro. Soon, though, he notices a killer storm on the horizon and realizes he’ll have to get off the planet if he wants to survive. He’ll need a ship to do that, though, so he locates an abandoned mercenary encampment and beams his location into space, knowing bounty hunters will soon arrive to claim the ever-escalating price on his head.

Actually, two sets of antagonists come looking for him: a team of bounty hunters led by the sleazy Santana (Jordi Mollà) and mercenaries led by the vengeance-driven Boss Johns (Matt Nable), whose son fell afoul of Riddick in “Pitch Black.” And the plot settles down to the predictable business of Riddick wiping them out one by one until the apocalyptic storm (accompanied by something much more dangerous than nasty weather), requires them to join forces against a common enemy.

It’s nothing new for sure, but writer/director David Twohy (who’s displayed a nice touch for genre fare with the submarine thriller “Below” and the psycho-killer thriller “A Perfect Getaway” in addition to the Riddick chronicles), throws in enough entertaining touches to maintain interest — despite an overlong two-hour running time. Former “Battlestar Galactica” star Katee Sackhoff is a major bonus as the hard-hitting mercenary Dahl, who takes particular pleasure in pummeling designated villain Santana. Twohy plays that for laughs to good effect along with other unexpectedly humorous moments — such as Riddick teaching his grown-up hyena-wolf a stupid pet trick worthy of the “Letterman” show.

It never hurts to mix in a little gratuitous comedy in a movie like this, along with the gratuitous nudity and gore.

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