Vin Diesel returns to his break-out character in this down-and-dirty sci-fi action thriller that revels in its B-movie conventions. The film begins with everybody's favourite chrome-domed tough guy injured and stranded on a remote desert planet.

Flashbacks, featuring a brief appearance from Kiwi Chronicles co-star Karl Urban, detail how he ended up here but, beyond that, the first 30 minutes or so comprise a near wordless sequence in which Riddick patches himself back together and violently tussles with carnivorous wildlife.

It's a fantastic start to the film, which subsequently enters more familiar territory when a bunch of mercenaries show up looking to claim the bounty on Riddick's ostrich egg-like head. Unlike most reasonably budgeted sci-fi franchises, this series is clearly a labour of love for Diesel and film-maker David Twohy. When Chronicles of Riddick failed to break out as a blockbuster nine years ago, it was Diesel and Twohy's tenacity that saw this scaled-down follow-up eventually appear. Plus Twohy's skills as a economical genre film-maker ensure Riddick rarely betrays the fact that its budget is only a third of what most films of this scale spend. Aussie league player-turned-film-maker/actor Matt Nable is an interesting choice as Riddick's principal antagonist, and he delivers. An entire film in the mould of the first half-hour would've been more interesting, but I could respect Twohy's desire to tick all the genre boxes. A consistently fun exercise in unabashedly gratuitous sci-fi thrills.

Stars: 3.5/5
R16; 118 minutes. Out now.