Never Die Alone
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Drug dealer King David (DMX) heads back to the Big Apple to make amends with his past and a crime boss (Clifton Powell) whom he betrayed in the past. Unfortunately for both men, there also happens to be a third gangsta in the equation (Ealy) who wouldn't mind doing away with everyone involved.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
A decent effort overall, NEVER DIE ALONE is the kind of movie you need to back away from a bit to decide whether or not you really dug it or not. There were a couple of spots in there when the fast forward button looked mighty big on my remote, but I toughed it out and you know what? I'm pretty glad I did. I've always been a bit antsy about DMX as an actor, I thought he was a blast in EXIT WOUNDS but sucked marbles in CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE. He'll obviously never see the inside of the Kodak Theater, but he can usually be relied on to provide some fun times as a tough cookie. He delivers both an on-screen role and a narrative one in this movie and the former is much better than the latter. His demeanor on-screen smacks of charisma, but his narration leaves a lot to be desired, making him sound more like a high school kid reading an essay in front of a classroom than a rapper with a tough rep (I believe it's called "street cred" but then again, I'm a white dude from the 'burbs). The most enjoyable performance is offered by Michael Ealy as a young tough out for revenge. Ealy was one of the best parts of both BARBERSHOP flicks and is as fun to watch here. David Arquette is also decent as a writer looking for an urban story who gets caught up in the middle of the collision between these three men.
One thing this movie deserves a lot of credit for, and much of it should go to director Ernest Dickerson, is that it, at least, tries much harder to make sense than most other rapper vehicles. The characters are well developed, the story ties up all its loose ends and the structure of the film takes a few chances that ultimately pay off with the use of a lot of flashbacks and the early demise of some of the main characters. It gets a bit confusing if your mind trails off for a second thinking about that awesome burger you had at lunch, but if you can keep the lights off and the sound off you'll definitely be able to enjoy it. I think that burger was probably more responsible for my thinking about the forward button than anything the film offered up. Dickerson also doesn't shy away from dishing out some pretty raw scenes depicting brutal violence and free-wheeling drug use. DMX may be the hero of the movie but he's far -- very far -- from being a nice guy and before he comes looking for redemption, he's downright one of the biggest assholes I've seen on screen in a long, long time. With a quick 88 minute running time, it's also a quick watch which you're more likely to enjoy than not. Disposable but fun nonetheless.
To begin with, you'll have the option of listening to a full length audio commentary featuring director Ernest Dickerson, screenwriter James Gibson and star DMX. The track begins with a little rap ditty by X and from there evolves into the standard discussion about all things revolving around the story, the shoot, etc... One question it raises is whether or not the Dickerson and Gibson had to have their ears examined following the recording of the commentary due to the fact that DMX doesn't talk as much as yell. He's still pretty funny though and sounds like a cool guy. One nice touch is that the track is available on both wide and full-screen versions.
Following that you can move into a set of eleven deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Dickerson. They're fairly short and it's a shame some of them were left on the floor because they went a long way into giving Arquette's character a bit of depth and more of an explanation about how he managed to get mixed up into this whole affair. There's also a five-minute making of featurette which doesn't really take enough time to explain much, but does feature the main stars offering up a few sound bites about the flick.
A ballsy effort by director Ernest Dickerson who gets the most out of his script and actors. Not a particularly awe-inspiring performance by DMX who has most of the screen time, but still fun enough to watch, especially since Michael Ealy steps up to take care of business. Worth a rental.