NEVER DIE ALONE
Review by Gordon Justesen
DMX, David Arquette, Michael Ealy
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 88 Minutes
Release Date: July 13, 2004
the day…I stop running from my past.”
If I were to tell
you that there was a criminal character in the movies that would be just as
despicable as Tony Montana in Scarface,
you’d probably think I was kidding. However, the fact is there is such a
character in the urban crime thriller Never
Die Alone, whose actions come close to making Tony Montana appear like a
full out saint. Rarely has there been a single individual character whose choice
actions are so cold-blooded and unredeemable.
His name is King
David, played with raw ferocity by rapper DMX. The story is told through
complete flashback, with the very first shot in the film showing David lying in
a coffin. His entire criminal life is reflected through audio tapes he had
recorded with intentions of possibly writing a book of his life. When his life
is cut short during a payoff gone bad, his entire life recordings come into the
possession of a young reporter named Paul (David Arquette). It is then when the
truth behind King David’s nature is revealed.
David, a former
drug runner of New York, has come back to his home turf to set the wrong things
right after relocating out west. But in King David’s line of work, that is
hardly ever a true situation. He comes back into town specifically to pay off an
old debt to a drug kingpin named Moon (Clifton Powell), who then assigns his new
protégé Mike (Michael Ealy) to make the cash pick up.
doesn’t go quite as planned; in fact it turns quite violent. It is here when
the reporter, Paul, comes into contact with the dying David. Rushing him to the
hospital, where he is then pronounced dead, Paul becomes the unlikely
beneficiary to King David’s belongings, including the numerous audio tapes
where upon David recorded his every sinister action.
Paul, wanting to
know why David had to die, begins listening to his life story, so begins the
real story of the film. We witness the very action as it occurs. David, having
double crossed Moon, flees town and decides to make a desperate flee out west to
L.A., possibly to start a new form of drug business. We soon discover that David
possessed a natural talent for picking up women quickly, only to control the
status of their lives through providing them with quick drugs.
David hooks up with
two individual women. One is TV actress Janet (Jennifer Sky); the second is
ambitious college student Juanita (Reagan Gomez-Preston). He pretty much has
them attached to him for one sole purpose; to control their lives by the
strings. He gets them hooked on coke, only to switch it out to heroin without
having the heart to tell either one of them. One woman’s tragic fate is
straightly connected with a crucial event in the past; one which will reveal a
surprising connection between David and another person.
The movie is
directed with a strong visual style by Ernest Dickerson. Dickerson started out
as a cinematographer, working a great deal with filmmaker Spike Lee on such
films as Do the Right Thing and Malcolm
X. He then became a director in his own, creating such memorable pieces as
the urban thriller Juice and one of my
personal horror favorites, Demon Knight.
With Never Die Alone, Dickerson has
created his strongest cinematic piece to date.
by Matthew Libatique is another plus. Libatique, whose work can be seen in such
strong fare as Requiem For a Dream,
Tigerland, and Phone Booth,
applies a memorable visual style to this gritty urban thriller.
Strong in its story
and relentlessly dark and unnerving, Never
Die Alone is quite possibly one of the best gangster dramas to come out in
quite some time. Credit both DMX for delivering a gut wrenchingly realistic
performance, and Dickerson for making a most strong and visually powerful piece
of urban noir.
Fox offers up yet
another strong and visually stunning anamorphic presentation. The image is, at
times, a bit murky and grainy…but that’s a hundred percent intentional, as
to make the storytelling much more gripping. The detail is ever so superb, with
the colors, as much as the dark and gritty picture will allow them, are quite
absorbing and extremely natural. High marks all the way. The Full Screen version
is also included, but you should definitely stick with the flipside of the disc,
which is indeed the widescreen edition.
The 5.1 mix is
quite a marvelous strong one. The film does include a bit of momentary shootouts
and gritty violence, but there’s a whole lot more to go around in this
outstanding presentation. Dialogue, along with a mighty urban-like score in
addition to a few hip hop tracks, each is heard with powerful detail and
clarity. Overall, an effective sound presentation to match the strong effect of
the film itself.
While not a fully
loaded disc, Fox still manages to apply to basic goods to this release. Featured
is a commentary track with DMX, Ernest Dickerson and screenwriter James Gibson.
There are 11 deleted scenes with optional commentary, a making of featurette, a
trailer gallery, and an inside look at Fox’s upcoming theatrical release, Taxi.
The only downer is that you will have to flip the disc over to see all of the