Film Reviews

NEVER DIE ALONE (Victoria)

By • Mar 26th, 2004 •

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Fox Searchlight and Content Film present a Bloodline Films production in association with White Orchid Films
Running time — 82 minutes / MPAA rating: R

Was NEVER DIE ALONE really written by a group of little old ladies from a Wisconsin nursing home? Listening to the “street” dialogue convinced me the filmmakers are shut-ins who never met a drug dealer no less a black person. There is only one thing that redeems this worn-out tale: DMX. His raw performance transcends the material.

I kept waiting for drug dealer King David (DMX) to let us know he was really a deep undercover cop. While the whole story is ridiculous, David’s brutal, narrow, and single-minded unrepentant personality redeems it. Outside of SCARFACE’s Tony Montana, when have we seen this much callous behavior intended as a star vehicle?

Directed by Ernest Dickerson and adapted by James Gibson from cult novels by Donald Goines, NEVER DIE ALONE starts off in a funeral home. Dead King David wants to let us know how this happened to him. This is not a morality lesson or explanation of what went wrong. It is just his warts-and-all story.

Gibson should have lavished more attention on the supporting characters (like the feisty, foul-mouthed bartender who nearly runs off with the movie) and written interesting dialogue, especially when your star agrees to play such a selfish monster. Why not have some fun instead of saddling the story with every bad cliché?

King David returns home to New York after running off with a lot of kingpin Moon’s (Clifton Powell) drugs. Moon is fawned over by two young blond twins who treat him like he was The Baby Jesus. King David wants to settle up with Moon but things become nasty when he meets up with Moon’s cash collectors. Out of nowhere, Paul (David Arquette) turns up in Moon’s bar. He is the only white guy in the movie but has a black girlfriend. He is doing some kind of research for a book he is writing (on a typewriter). Outside the dive bar Paul witnesses one of the cash collectors, Mike (Michael Ealy), stab King David. Paul takes him to the hospital. Amazingly, King David signs over his flashy car, Rolex watch, diamond ring, and a big wad of cash to Paul. Instead of hightailing it back to the suburbs, Paul wants to find out who killed King David and why.

What I want to know is what David Arquette is doing in this movie.

In King David’s car are six audiotapes. Paul begins to listen King David’s life story.
We flashback to King David moving to L.A. and intentionally getting his white starlet girlfriend Janet (Jennifer Sky) and her entire TV show hooked on heroin. They think its harmless cocaine. Ha, ha, on those fools! This is not the first time King David has purposefully hoodwinked a girlfriend into becoming a drug addict.

Oh, there is much more very bad behavior.

Strung out and not so pretty any more, Janet is dumped by King David, replaced by college student Juanita (Reagan Gomez-Preston). He actually thinks he might be in love with her. When she ridicules his dream of leaving the drug-peddling life with “only” $250,000 in cash, he turns her into a pitiful heroin addict.

It would have been much better if a hospital orderly took King David’s stuff and threw away his “legacy” tapes. You know, as an homage to “Rosebud.” Paul’s “investigation” uncovers an unsentimental look at a man without a trace of conscience.

If it were not for DMX’s riveting screen charisma and damn-them performance, NEVER DIE ALONE would be a big misstep. The story appears cobbled together. DMX does not care what we think of King David. He hits kids! He kills people. He treats women horribly.

Thank goodness King David respects the Law of Karma and Weird Coincidence.

So why did King David choose Paul to write his epithet? There are sloppy holes in the film that should be blamed on director Ernest Dickerson who knows better. Yet, pushing aside the stupidity of the story, DMX’s portrayal is engrossing and I am a sucker for gritty cinematography that does not glamorize the setting. And, to be fair, King David does die.


Credits:
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Screenwriter: James Gibson
Based on the novel by: Donald Goines
Producers: Alessandro Camon, Earl Simmons
Executive producers: Edward R. Pressman, John Schmidt, Angelo A. Ellerbee, Rudy “Kato” Rangel, Marc Gerald, Dion Fearon, Cameron Casey
Director of photography: Matthew Libatique
Production designer: Christiaan Wagener
Music: George Duke
Costume designer: Marie France
Editor: Stephen Lovejoy

Cast:
King David: DMX
Mike: Michael Ealy
Paul: David Arquette
Blue: Antwon Tanner
Edna II: Drew Sidora
Moon: Clifton Powell
Jasper: Luenell Campbell
Janet: Jennifer Sky
Juanita: Reagan Gomez-Preston

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