Pitch Black

Directed by David N. Twohy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser.
MPAA Rating: R for sci-fi violence and gore, and for language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
February 20, 2000

Continuing from my review of Boiler Room, here is the second part of the Vin Diesel Double Feature. Pitch Black is his first starring role in a feature film, which also premiered on Friday.

Sometime in the future, space travel becomes a commercial affair. Just like today's airlines, there are the bargain flights, run by crews that are frighteningly young. On a voyage along the "back roads" of the galaxy, a ship carrying several passengers is forced to crash-land under the guidance of Fry (Radha Mitchell), the young co-pilot, after the captain dies. Most of the passengers are adventurers or Muslim pilgrims to "New Mecca", but two stand out.

Intergalactic cop Johns (Cole Hauser) is escorting convicted murderer Riddick (Vin Diesel) to a distant prison. Riddick is not your average felon; he had a former inmate (who just happened to be a doctor) give him an eye operation that allows him to see in extremely low light. When an eclipse comes to the planet they crash on, Johns has little choice but to set him free. In the infinite darkness, the millions of bat-like aliens come to the surface and attack the castaways. Only Riddick can defend them against the aliens until they can rig another craft to take them off the planet.

Pitch Black is the second film directed by David Twohy. His first effort, 1996's The Arrival, was good, but lacked a competent screenplay. Unfortunately, it was Twohy that wrote it, as well. This time, he has two other names in the writing credits, but the problem still persists. He is a highly talented director, but somebody needs to give him a decent script. There are so many eye-rolling lines, that all the brilliant direction in the world could never cover it completely.

However, if I didn't understand English, I would have loved this film. The shots are all beautifully constructed, and the action keeps a terrific pace. Basically, this is what Bats could have been like, if it were made by Ridley Scott (the influence of Alien is strong here indeed). At the center is Diesel, who proves that he could be a big action star. He could take any Schwarzenegger role, and inject a crucial element: talent.

So where does Diesel's career go from here? He has the upcoming Knockaround Guys with Seth Green, Dennis Hopper, and John Malkovich (Malkovich! Malkovich! Sorry, I can't help it). He and Twohy could have a great future in making more action films -- as long as somebody keeps Twohy from writing his own screenplays.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Pitch Black (2000)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Pitch Black (2000) -- VHS
Pitch Black (2000) - R-rated version -- DVD
Pitch Black (2000) - Unrated version -- DVD
Pitch Black, a screenplay novelization by Frank Lauria -- Paperback

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan