[box cover]

Never Die Alone

Trying to return to Harlem to make amends for past transgressions, 'King' David (DMX) finds himself dead, and thus recounting his life story from beyond the grave. "Karma" he explains, has finally caught up with him. While returning the money he owes to Moon (Clifton Powell), Moon's go-to guy Michael (Michael Ealy) has an unexplained grudge against David and can't refrain from stabbing him, especially after David calls him "scarface" for the notable scar on his cheek. David clearly is dying, and the only person of helps him is a passerby, Paul (David Arquette), to whom David wills all of his possessions. Paul is a struggling journalist and is immediately sucked into the mystery of David's life and death, especially when he finds cassettes in 'King' David's bible. They recount David's flight from New York to Los Angeles, where the drugs he stole "on credit" turn him into a wheeler-dealer. He plans on making $250,000 and retiring, but the only hang-up is the women in his life — they argue, do his drugs, and tell him he's penny-ante. They don't realize that David is ruthless and has no problem getting his women addicted to heroin when they think it's cocaine — and no problem giving them battery acid when they think it's heroin. All the while, Michael's mess-up in killing David gets him hunted by Moon and his men, who are also looking for Paul to make sure he doesn't find anything out that could take Moon down. Directed by journeyman Ernest Dickerson (whose career began as Spike Lee's cinematographer), 2004's Never Die Alone is one of the first attempts to bring author Donald Goines' work to the big screen. Goines was known for his hard-hitting crime fiction that dealt with pimps, pushers, and the streets in a way that proved very influential on rap artists (perhaps it's karma that rapper DMX stars in and produced the film), but like blaxploiation (and the movie Never Die Alone itself), Goines' writing was marginalized and not accepted by the mainstream — perhaps because its black authorship made it seem too niche-specific. But Never Die Alone is an admirable entry in the neo-noir canon, and Dickerson never falters from displaying the brutality of Goines' fiction. Though known for his ongoing problems with the law, producer (under his birth-name Earl Simmons) and star DMX is a fine leading man who has no compunctions about keeping his character heartless — all the more respectable, considering what producer/star Mel Gibson did to Payback. Moving at a brisk pace, Never Die Alone is built upon a structural neatness (the karma factor) that makes certain revelations seem evident, but otherwise is a fine noir entry. Fox presents the film in both anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary with Dickerson, DMX, and screenwriter James Gibson. Eleven deleted scenes are included with optional commentary, along with a "making-of" spot (5 min.) and bonus trailers. Keep-case.

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