Never Die Alone [2004]

There's nothing like a violent, foul-mouthed, drug-laden, misogynistic, post-adolescent gangsta fantasy to teach you (heh heh) that crime doesn't pay. Whassup with Never Die Alone, bro? Here's a pulp-driven movie that wants it both ways, glorifying virtually every negative black-male stereotype in the book (illiterates with absentee parents, gold-toothed pimps, hooded gangstas, bling-bling drug dealers, thugs, and assorted hip-hop wannabes) while presenting a gritty neo-noir crime story of an ill-fated heroin dealer and woman-hater (rapper-turned-bad-actor DMX) who seeks redemption but has too much bad karma to survive. Based on the influential 1974 novel by Donald Goines and directed with plenty of dark-city style by Ernest R. Dickerson, this hard-hitting but woefully trashy crime thriller is rather ambitious in its narrative structure, weaving past and present in telling a doomed man's tale. David Arquette brings urgent desperation to his role as a seedy writer whose inner-city research turns into a violent nightmare, and Michael Ealy is equally good as a vengeful gangsta with blood ties to DMX's character. But what's the real lesson here? In a movie with no moral compass, it's no wonder everyone's spinning off in all the wrong directions. --Jeff Shannon

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