PLOT: The boring existence of immortal Jack gets shaken up when a long-lost daughter, a love interest, and gun-toting criminals all enter his life at the same time.
REVIEW: Writer/director Jason Krawczyk created HE NEVER DIED main character Jack with the intention of casting Henry Rollins in the role, and it's difficult to imagine the film working as well as it does with anyone else playing Jack. Rollins carries the film on his shoulders and delivers an incredible performance as the immortal, who has been around for thousands of years and at this point is utterly bored with life, spending his days sleeping, drinking bags of blood, and spicing up the occasional evening with a game of Bingo.
Jack's dull routine is disrupted when 19-year-old Andrea (Jordan Todosey) shows up at his door and is revealed to be his daughter. Not only does Jack have to spend a couple days hanging out with the kid, who is actually pretty adorable, despite having some questionable tendencies, but her presence also opens the door to a bunch of trouble.
You see, a local criminal has a vendetta against Jack, and now that it's discovered that he has a daughter, this is also perceived as him having a weakness to exploit, so soon Andrea has disappeared and Jack is having to deal with all sorts of fisticuffs, gunplay, and ill-advised attempts on his life. Also getting mixed up in all this is Kate Greenhouse as Cara, a down-on-her-luck waitress who displays an interest in Jack... at least until she gets to know a bit more about his history, which stretches all the way back to the early chapters of the Bible.
A fascinating character, Jack has seen and experienced all the world has to offer, so there is very little that gets a rise out of him. Rollins plays almost every line of dialogue in a deadpan manner, as Jack basically meanders through the motions of every encounter he has with another person, violent or otherwise. While this is amusing to watch and makes Jack come off as the coolest of badasses, this low-key mood also has a somewhat negative impact on the film's pace - when the hero is sort of sleepwalking through most of the scenes, it's hard for them to generate much excitement for the viewer. Because of this, HE NEVER DIED can come off as slow and scenes can feel like they go on a bit too long.
Despite dragging a little, HE NEVER DIED remains entertaining throughout and leaves a positive impression due to Jack / Rollins. Even when they feel like they could have been trimmed, the scenes are packed with fun, well-written dialogue exchanged between our captivating hero and other interesting characters.
Krawczyk wrote a great script and brought it to the screen in a capable manner with the aid of cinematographer Eric Billman, who captured some beautiful imagery. The standout scene for me was a comedically-slanted altercation Jack has outside on a winter night when the filmmakers were lucky enough to have snowflakes drifting through the frame. More could have been done with the action / fight scenes in general, but I get the feeling that anything they're lacking was mostly due to the film's lower budget.
HE NEVER DIED is a much more subdued film than I was anticipating, but it's well worth watching to be introduced to Jack. I was left wanting to see more of him, to spend more time with the character and learn more about him, as he has a lot of potential beyond this one film. Pretty much anything could be done with him, stories involving him could be told in any location and at almost any given point in human history. Luckily, Krawczyk and Rollins are planning to continue delving into Jack's life with an eight episode mini-series, a project that I would love to see come to fruition.