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1 item from 2000

Film review: 'Pitch Black'

14 February 2000 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Not the first time this has happened, "Pitch Black" is a science fiction movie with a cool premise and scary creatures that's thoroughly degraded and defanged by cliched characters and dreadful dialogue. A USA Films release directed and co-written by David Twohy ("The Arrival"), "Pitch" will be quickly ditched by genre fans after a black-and-blue opening weekend.

Starring Vin Diesel ("Saving Private Ryan", the "Iron Giant"'s voice and the upcoming "Boiler Room") as an anatomically enhanced killer convict caught with other survivors on a desolate planet after a spaceship crashes, "Pitch" has an exciting opening. It rapidly switches to overly familiar cheap thrills and gets bogged down in all the hackneyed conflicts that go with a gaggle of squabblers who have the slimmest possible chance of survival.

When many crew members are snuffed out in the calamitous crashing of an interstellar ship full of snoozing travelers, daring "docking pilot" Fry (Radha Mitchell) more or less takes over. Guarding Riddick (Diesel) is Johns (Cole Hauser), but this good guy is a moody ex-drug fiend and quickly marked as unreliable. Nonetheless, they ascertain they're stuck on a planet that has three suns and no nighttime but plenty of breathable air and spiky earthen mounds.

The other castaways include a Muslim cleric (Keith David) on a hajj to "New Mecca", a geologist (Claudia Black), an antiques dealer (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) and a runaway teenage girl posing as a boy (Rhiana Griffith). One starts rooting early on for the unseen beasties in the mounds to hurry up with their appointed tasks.

Finding the ruins of an abandoned settlement and a working but low-on-fuel ship to escape in, they also realize the planet is about to be plunged into darkness behind another planet with Saturn-like rings. Not exactly sure what will happen, they concoct a plan that involves scampering across open land between multiple crash sites to get fuel canisters and escape from the planet.

As darkness falls, swarms of bird/reptile things fly out of the mounds and go after the humans. Riddick has special eyes that allow him to see in the dark. The flying monsters are repelled by light and are attracted to blood. With expendable characters starting to meet their ghastly ends, Riddick comes to the rescue (or does he?) in the climactic race to escape death.

Even with rapidly diminishing expectations, the performances prove to be average at best. While the suns are up and the action is outside, "Pitch" has a blazing, burnished look that makes good use of South Australia desert locations.

Creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos' ravenous horrors of the night are hardly seen long enough to fully appreciate, while the few space scenes and exotic planetscapes are effective.


USA Films

Gramercy Pictures presents

an Interscope Communications production

Director:David Twohy

Screenwriters:Jim & Ken Wheat, David Twohy

Producer:Tom Engelman

Executive producers:Ted Field, Scott Kroopf, Anthony Winley

Director of photography:David Eggby

Production designer:Graham "Grace" Walker

Editor:Rick Shaine

Costume designer:Anna Borghesi

Visual effects supervisor:Peter Chiang

Music:Graeme Revell



Riddick:Vin Diesel

Fry:Radha Mitchell

Johns:Cole Hauser

Imam:Keith David

Paris:Lewis Fitz-Gerald

Shazza:Claudia Black

Jack/Jackie:Rhiana Griffith

Running time - 107 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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