Never Die Alone opens up with a scene that full blown gives away a pivotal event in the film, where we see the main character, King David, lying in a casket, eyes closed, hands on his chest. It's no big secret that he's dead, to me, this movie isn't about the events, but simply about the story and the characters, and that's really all that matters. What I like first about this movie is that it has the power to make the audience not care if the ending is revealed, or if any other event is told before it happens. I don't think this movie is about the ending, but it's simply about King David and his monstrous nature/personality.
Again, the movie opens up with King David in a casket, obviously dead. He gives a narration, and talks about reincarnation and how some say that when you die in one life, you'll pay back for your mistakes in the next one. Immediately, one can wonder why this man would mention this.
King David comes back to his hometown to make amends with a drug dealer that he stole from. This drug dealer is Moon. David offers to give back the 15 thousand he stole in drugs, plus another fifteen thousand for interest. Moon sends two of his boys, Blue and Mike, to make the pickup. During the scene in which Moon tells the two to meet up with David, Mike's reaction sparks up some question, because he gets noticeably angry. We the audience question the history that David and Mike, and ask what the deal is between them. The pickup goes wrong, and King David ends up getting stabbed in the process, right across from a bar. In the bar across the street is aspiring reporter, Paul, a man who hangs out in ghetto areas to gather up information on his novel. David comes to the aid of David, and drives him to the hospital. During this beginning scene, we actually start to feel sympathy for King David, as he pleads to Paul to `Not let him die alone.' This line is somewhat sad, but at this point we have no idea what kind of person David is. David of course dies, and hands over practically everything he has to Paul, probably because he was caring enough to bring him to the hospital and not let him die in the gutters. Among the things Paul gets from David are jewelry, money, and a nice car. Paul eventually finds a collection of audio cassettes, each one an audio diary chronicling the last ten years of David's monstrous life. Then the real story begins.
Through these audio tapes, we realize that David probably never wanted redemption and had no apology for the monstrous acts he's done. We at first feel sorry for his character, and not want him to die, but as the movie chronicles the last ten years, all of that care and sympathy that we had the character disappears as we see King David for who he really is: A monstrous man who has no compassion for anyone. King David charms women, gets to know them, then hooks them on cocaine, THEN switches them to heroin without them knowing, so that they have an unwanted dependence on him. King David is an unapologetic man, who seems to purely like the suffering of others. He single-handedly destroys these women's lives without remorse. He is able to look back on these events and tell them as if he were proud about them. This is his character. Unlike most drug movies, the character isn't sugarcoated, the character isn't sold as a cold blooded killer who still feels remorse for some people. The King David character is the complete opposite. He is written truthfully, without trying to hold back the grim events in his life.
DMX has made a few films in the past, the two most recent (I'm pretty sure) are Exit Wounds, and Cradle 2 The Grave, both mindless action films for the genre fans. Those two movies were there to simply make money, and to entertain people with fights and explosions. I liked those two movies, but I don't those movies were able to expand DMX's acting talents because of what kinds of movies they are. Never Die Alone brings out the performance in DMX that most people probably didn't even know existed. Unlike in Cradle 2 The Grave and Exit Wounds, DMX is able to give his character depth, and is able to define him in ways that most actors cant do. He is able define his character in the most monstrous way possible, and even though this character is monstrous and evil in the movie, DMX cloaks this evil vindictive side, and is able to appear normal, and I think this is the dynamic force of the character, he knows he's evil, he knows he's a horrible person, but he acts as if it's all just an everyday activity to ruin people's lives, and DMX pulls this characteristic off amazingly well. He wrecks people's lives, and he does it with so much ease and so little care, and DMX really brings this character trait to the surface.
David Arquette plays an aspiring reporter, who, like I mentioned earlier, finds King David's audio diaries and discovers the truth about the man he just met. Arquette's character isn't onscreen very much, and he only interacts a few times with other people, with the exception of King David. His character isn't really developed, but he's one of those film characters where he can be developed and presented with only a few sentences. What we can learn about this character is that he simply is willing to go where most people wouldn't dare to go, and he never intends harm to anyone else. The character is simply there to be the good hearted person who doesn't enforce any kind of hate or violence. He's the modern character of the movie, the everyday person. His character is drawn into the complex character of King David. Before he listens to the cassettes, he obviously doesn't know who King David is, but he probably thinks that David isn't that bad of a person, just like the audience. But as he listens to the tapes and hears the monstrous things he's done, we cant really tell what he thinks about the guy afterwards. We don't know whether he still feels some kind of remorse for him, or if he feels that he deserved to die. There might still be some remorse left in Arquette's character, but the movie doesn't really emphasize whether that care and remorse was diminished after he listened to the tapes. Each time this character was onscreen, I sat there wanting the movie to go back to King David's `adventure', mainly because Arquette's character wasn't interesting, and the movie tended to slow down every time they showed him. However, regardless of that problem, it doesn't hurt the movie that much, but I think it could have been fixed in some way.
The nature of this movie is dark and grim, so of course, the movie's setting has to be dark and grim, and it is. The lighting effects obviously reflect the movie's nature, and maybe even it's main character. The locations are perfectly fitting for the dark and depressing tone that the movie tries to set, and the lighting most of the time is perfect, because it maintains a depressing look that has lots of style. Whether or not the movie's look was done just for the sake of looking good, of if it was done to reflect the characters and situations, either way, it was very stylistic.
With DMX's name printed above the title, and with DMX on the front cover with two handguns at hand, most people will think this movie is another mindless action film in the tradition of Exit Wounds and Cradle 2 The Grave. I thought that it was an action film at first, but I had no idea that it was a serious movie dealing with serious characters and serious situations. Never Die Alone is a smart, taught, dark, and stylistic low budget drama that'll either disgust audiences or serve them a dark drama that takes you into the monstrous world of a vicious drug pusher, either way, the audience will despise it for the first reason, and maybe love it for the latter reason. I liked it for the latter.
Score: 9 ½ out of 10.
Very underrated dark drama that deserves some more recognition. Easily one of the best films of 2004.