28 March 2004 | dj_bassett
Ambitious, something of a misfire
Interesting attempt to adapt a Donald Goines novel for the big screen, Never Die Alone is reminiscent of early blaxploitation classics like BLACK CAESAR, with both the pluses and minuses that entails.
DMX stars as drug dealer King David. "Exiled" in LA for the last ten years, he comes back home to NYC to repay his debts. The movie wanders around between the present day and flashbacks in LA, where we learn more of his past.
Essentially this is three movies lumped together. The first movie, which lasts for the first half-hour or so, is an excellent, gritty crime drama, as good as anything I've seen recently on the big screen. The second movie, mainly the flashbacks, is true to the Goines source material, portraying the horrors of drug addiction and Goines's peculiar, glum view of the world as a violent, basically loveless place. The third one deals with David Arquette, an aspiring writer who fetishizes the gangster lifestyle exemplified by King.
These three movies sit awkwardly together. Arquette's character is potentially very interesting, but never developed as much as it should have been. The flashbacks and the main storyline are both well done, but bump up against each other awkwardly. DMX's motivations are more stated that portrayed, so that the primary character arc doesn't really feel very believable.
DMX is fine -- if you're familiar with Goines you'll see how well he exemplifies a typical Goines character, the "noble gangster who's morally compromised by a depraved past". Dickerson's direction is excellent, although the final metaphorical shot is a little heavy and obvious, I thought.
I would like to see more cracks at the Goines novels -- they are promising source material.