A film noir centering around a hard-boiled, stylish kingpin drug dealer, called King David, who returns to his hometown seeking redemption--but ends up only finding violent death. King David's final moments are spent with Paul, an aspiring journalist who knew him for just a few minutes; yet King David would forever more have an impact on Paul's life. Half preacher, half Satan, and all street smarts, King David had recorded the story of his exploits on audiotape, leaving behind an often-poetic sermon on villainy and its consequences. The tapes reveal that the cycle of violence and retribution, which his actions have spawned, has come back to him, full circle, as he suspected they might all along.
With his compulsively slamming lyrics and king-of-the-world delivery, DMX intuitively echoed the projects-existentialism of the novelist Donald Goines for years. He's the perfect actor for the film adaptation of Goines's "Never Die Alone," directed with street-corner majesty by the cinematographer-turned-director Ernest Dickerson. DMX stars as the drug dealer King David, who pops up in the streets again after a long absence. Rolling into the frame in a player's classic — a late 70's Stutz Blackhawk — King David shrugs his way back into the hard-knock life. He quickly reaps what he sows and, mortally wounded, passes all his worldly goods to Paul (David Arquette), a scrambling white would-be writer. King David's estate includes an audio journal of his life, which provides flashbacks and a narrative-within-a-narrative that answers the shaken Paul's curiosity. It's the highlights of King David's high life that propel "Alone." Like all of Goines's heroes, King David is a scourge on the periphery, and the movie dramatizes his corrosive effect on the margins with savvy muscularity. Every life he touches he leaves in ruins — a need to deface beauty as a result of self-loathing is implicit, and DMX signals that motivation with sly hostility. To say that King David is the best part he's ever had is an understatement; he has never felt the need to inhabit a movie in this way before. — Elvis Mitchell
2004-03-26 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Never Die Alone