Never Die Alone

on March 26, 2004 by Annlee Elingson
After a decade of dealing drugs in Los Angeles, King David (rapper DMX) returns to his hometown seeking redemption, but his first move to take responsibility--repaying a significant debt to a local kingpin--culminates in his violent death. He spends his final moments with a stranger, Paul (David Arquette), a writer who happens to be in the area, and leaves the good Samaritan his tricked-out car with a quarter of a million dollars in the trunk and a audiotape diary in a hollow Bible. That's just the beginning of the story, however, as Paul sorts through the tapes, reconstructing King D's life, while on the run from the goons who want to make sure that King D didn't talk to him before he died.

Helmer Ernest R. Dickerson ("Juice," "Bulletproof") infuses this urban noir with a highly stylized cinematic technique that gives the film a lot of attitude, tilting his camera at sharp angles, lighting the frame with dramatic intensity and at one point experimenting with a vertical image before rotating out of the 90-degree angle to striking effect. Meanwhile, Dickerson's lens fairly caresses his leading man with erotic close-ups. DMX possesses a commanding magnetism and gives a powerful, sexy performance.

But "Never Die Alone," based on the cult novel by popular ex-con author Donald Goines, is hampered by its convoluted plot and a marked melodramatic streak that counteracts the film's cool factor. There's a lot of moving back and forth in time--to two days earlier, to 10 years ago, with past and present action running concurrently in parallel storylines. One soon loses track of where the characters are going, what they're going to do when they get there and why. Starring DMX, David Arquette, Michael Ealy, Clifton Powell and Reagan Gomez-Preston. Directed by Ernest Dickerson. Written by James Gibson. Produced by Earl Simmons and Alessandro Camon. A Fox Searchlight release. Drama. Rated R for strong violence, drug use, sexuality and language. Running time: 82 min

Tags: Ernest R. Dickerson, adaptation, DMX, David Arquette, Michael Ealy, Clifton Powell, Reagan Gomez-Preston, drugs, murder, mystery, noir, African American

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