Review: Never Die Alone
Rapper DMX is dealer and womanising thug King David who returns to home turf after a few years, only to be thoroughly dealt with by a rival gangsta (Clifton Powell, in one of his best performances) and his goons (including unstable young Michael Ealy, whose vital back-story seems mostly absent). Loser writer David Arquette gives the dying man a lift to the hospital, and winds up with a collection of his audio tapes outlining his rise and fall. Aisha Tyler is Arquette’s fed-up girlfriend, in a throwaway part.
2004 Ernest R. Dickerson (“Demon Knight” and “Surviving the Game”) crime flick can’t decide if it wants to be a hippity-hop “Superfly”, a modern-day wannabe “Scarface” (which was a remake of a 30s film itself), a tribute to 50s noir (with a narrative device stolen from “Sunset Blvd.” No less), or a straight gangsta drama. It is, however, mostly dull, confusingly structured, and derivative, despite a few decent performances (notably the underrated Powell). Loser-ish characters don’t help, either. DMX has an interesting raspy voice and despite not being much of an actor, he does have some screen presence and charisma. He can’t begin to salvage this, though. Scripted by James Gibson (his dad, character actor Henry Gibson has a very brief cameo at the end) from a Donald Goines novel that was probably a lot better and more assured.
To be fair, the film doesn’t glamorise drugs or dealers, really, but like “Superfly” you aren’t always certain of that. The difference is that “Superfly” was a genuinely good film.