Never Die Alone
Never Die Alone, starring rapper DMX, David Arquette and Michael Ealy, is one of those films that will likely strike each person who views it in a different way. For some the movie will be reprehensible because it focuses on, and thus glamorizes, a violent criminal way of life. For others the film will be an artistic depiction of a way of life adopted by those who feel they have no other options. Personally, this film is an occasionally gruesome story told from the point of view of the villain that, far from glamorizing that violent criminal way of life, demonstrates very clearly that you will indeed reap what you sow.
King David (DMX) narrates his own story through audio tapes made while he travels to the west coast to escape his reputation (as a violent, self-serving "snake), his compatriots (from whom he has stolen drugs and cash) and get a new start in life. It becomes quickly apparent however that this man has absolutely no redeeming qualities and is utterly incapable of anything but spreading corruption and death to anything, or anyone, he touches. He eventually returns home, realizing that what he needs to do is take responsibility for his actions in order to truly set things to right and start again. Karma, however, has a far different plan for King David. Some people are just plain unredeemable.
DMX does a passable job carrying the role of the ill-fated main character. The character could have stood to be portrayed by someone just a touch more "slick", although too much slickness would have eliminated the humanness that makes this otherwise sociopathic character believable and interesting. Michael Ealy’s very serious portrayal of a young man with a basically good heart is at times too stiff and uncomfortable for the audience to fully connect with his worries and pain. It also seems a bit unbelievable that someone with his principles would be involved in this particular criminal lifestyle with as little apparent internal conflict as he shows. David Arquette is very good as "the outsider" who stumbles into the King David saga quite by accident and finds what he has been so desperately been seeking, a connection into what he considers to be "his" community, a community that very obviously does not welcome him with open arms. One of the few complaints I have about this film is the mostly inexplicable presence of Arquette’s character which continues to be something of a distraction throughout the film, not through any fault of the actor, but because I found myself asking again and again "Why is this guy here?" There is violence in this film, though not as much as in other films of this type, and it is rarely what I would call gratuitous... it is either juxtaposed with guilt to demonstrate a character’s better nature, or stands as a glaring example of another character’s flawed nature. The supporting cast and settings are excellent, in some cases even more three-dimensional than the main characters themselves. As for the writing... I have a special place in my heart for a story that can be told from the point of view of a villain and do so without compromising that character or being too heavy-handed in either direction.
The Commentary track provided by DMX, director Ernest Dickerson and screenwriter James Gibson is entertaining if you are a fan of DMX but is otherwise not very interesting and a little light on interesting details regarding the film’s development. In addition to Trailers and an Inside Look at some upcoming projects, there is a Making Of... featurette and a series of Deleted Scenes that focus mainly on David Arquette’s character and help explain the presence and motivations of this VERY out-of-place person. While I can definitely understand why these scenes were deleted, I do think it’s a shame that the character’s development had to suffer as a result, so I highly recommend watching at least these Deleted Scenes.