Friday February 18, 2000
"Pitch Black," a routine sci-fi/horror action-adventure, takes us where we've been countless times before--a forbidding distant planet--and offers nothing new along the way. Director David Twohy, who co-wrote the script with Jim and Ken Wheat, seems to understand this because he brings maximum razzle-dazzle and energy to the film, which is certainly the way to go with such trite material, even if ultimately a flashy technique is not enough.
Twohy does have an ace in the hole in his star, Vin Diesel, a tall, New York-based actor who has an intelligence and authority to match his imposing physical presence. Without Diesel, "Pitch Black" wouldn't be worth watching.
Diesel's Riddick is a smart, cynical and decidedly dangerous prisoner who's had a "surgical shine on my eyeballs" that makes them glow in the dark--don't ask why. He's in the custody of Johns (Cole Hauser), a self-proclaimed lawman with a macho swagger and drawl. They are among the passengers aboard a spacecraft that pilot Fry (Radha Mitchell) is forced to crash-land on a desert-like planet with three suns to keep the temperature scorching.
The small group come upon an abandoned laboratory complex, where Fry discovers one of those models of the cosmos suggesting that as blindingly bright as the sunlight is now, a total eclipse is in the offing--precisely the most dangerous circumstances for Riddick. Meanwhile, the whole party comes to the realization that, predictably enough, They Are Not Alone!
Shot in the Queensland, Australia, outback, "Pitch Black" is as relentlessly efficient as it is mechanical, and its steadfast craftsmanship may make it acceptable to die-hard sci-fi fans. Its appeal, however, is limited because of its blah characters--with the exception of Riddick--and almost total absence of humor. As a result, "Pitch Black's" biggest plus is to serve as a calling card for Diesel, who made a strong impression in "Saving Private Ryan" and as the voice of "The Iron Giant," and who's clearly ready to carry bigger and better projects.
Pitch Black, 2000. R, for sci-fi violence and gore, and for language. A USA Films release of an Interscope presentation. Director David Twohy. Producer Tom Engelman. Executive producers Ted Field, Scott Kroopf, Anthony Winley. Screenplay by Jim & Ken Wheat and David Twohy; from a story by Jim & Ken Wheat. Cinematographer David Eggby. Editor Rick Shaine. Music Graeme Revell. Costumes Anna Borghesi. Production designer Graham (Grace) Walker. Visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang. Art director Ian Gracie. Set designers Jacinta Leong, Martin Ash, Phil Shearer. Set decorator Michael Rumpf. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes. Dolores Heredia as Esperanza. Fernando Torre Lapham as Padre Salvador. Demian Bichir as Cacomixtle. Alberto Estrella as Angel. Eric Schaeffer as Wirey Spindell. Eric Mabius as Wirey at 17. Callie Thorne as Tabatha. Samantha Buck as Samantha. Sophia-Adella Hernandez as Belle Alvarado. Eduardo Yan~ez as Mario Rodriguez. Tony Plana as Chuck Alvarado. William McNamara as Michael DeMarco. Maria Conchita Alonso as Carmen Alvarado. Paul Winfield as Ron Regent. Liam Neeson as Charlie. Oliver Platt as Fulvio Nesstra. Jose Zuniga as Fidel Vaillar. Michael Delorenzo as Estuvio. Andy Lauer as Jason Cane. Richard Schiff as Elliott. Paul Ben-Victor as Howard. Gregg Daniel as Jonathan. Ben Weber as Mark. Sandra Bullock as Judy Tipp. Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott. Courteney Cox Arquette as Gale Weathers. David Arquette as Dewey Riley. Parker Posey as Jennifer Jolie. Bernadette Lafont as Jane. Lucile Saint-Simon as Rita. Clothilde Joano as Jacqueline. Stephane Audran as Ginette. Mark Webber as Hal Brandston. Zena Grey as Natalie Brandston. Chevy Chase as Tom Brandston. Schuyler Fisk as Lane Leonard. Emmanuelle Chriqui as Claire Bonner. Jean Smart as Laura Brandston. Chris Elliott as Snowplowman. Leonardo DiCaprio as Richard. Tilda Swinton as Sal. Virginie Ledoyen as Francoise. Guillaume Canet as Etienne. Robert Carlyle as Daffy. Vin Diesel as Riddick. Radha Mitchell as Fry. Cole Hauser as Johns. Keith David as Imam.