A review of “Never Die Alone” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for violence, sex, language, and drug use

Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

 

 

What starts as a routine pimp film segues into an exercise in intrigue, thanks to some snappy editing and savvy performances.

Rap artist-turned-actor DMX is stylish drug lord King David, a bad brother who wavers from emotionally tender to ruthlessly vicious.  Newly sprung from the pen, David returns to his hometown to seek closure and redemption.  Not necessarily in that order.

The Lord takes care of fools and babies, and David is neither. A series of street-smart misdeeds find David living out his final moments in the company of a complete stranger, mild-mannered novelist Paul (David Arquette).  Paul makes a startling discovery: David has had the foresight (and enormous ego) to dictate his villainous lifestyle and its consequences onto audiotape, revealing a relentless cycle of shame and violence.

Through a series of well-crafted flashbacks based on the tapes, David develops into the man of the hour, a legend of the streets and in his own mind.  Fast women, illicit cash and illegal substances stick to the King like glue, sucking him into a vortex of hate and malice.

Inspired by cult novelist Donald Goines’ novel of the same name, Never Die Alone sports a smart pedigree.  Director Ernest Dickerson (Spike Lee’s numero uno lensman) toys with a standard, clichéd narrative but ultimately settles on an inventive series of vignettes that speak to the character behind the character.  Story is at its best when it’s at its worst: the personification of evil doing the devil’s work and making out like a King.

DMX knows how to play the cameras, all smooth-talk and bling. His David is thoroughly convincing and malevolent enough to ride ninety minutes into the home stretch.  Arquette has a tougher road to hoe, the white hat to DMX’s black and the weaker moral core of the story. Not for everyone, but Die is worth a look.