Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Never Die Alone

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, drug use, sexuality and language

Reviewed by: Joe Sinko
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teens and Adults
Genre:
Action Adventure, Crime/Gangster and Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 23 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
______

Featuring: Drew Sidora, Jennifer Sky, David Arquette, DMX, Michael Ealy
Director: Ernest R. Dickerson (Good Fences, Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie, Monday Night Mayhem, Our America, Ambushed, Bulletproof)
Producer: Alessandro Camon
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures

Learn about biblical redemption

Is there an actual place called “Hell”? Answer

The Story of God’s Promise for All People—Watch it now! Discover God’s plan.

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

Paradise or Pain? Why is the world the way it is?

Does the Bible allow for the possibility of reincarnation? Answer

About Hinduism—from a biblical point of view

Aren’t all religions basically the same? Why do followers of Christ insist that one must believe in Christ alone to be saved? Answer

Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Based on cult novelist Donald Goines’ novel of the same name, NEVER DIE ALONE is a …film noir about King David (DMX), a hard-boiled, stylish criminal who returns to his hometown seeking redemption but finding only violent death. But he did not die alone… King David’s final moments are spent with Paul (David Arquette) an aspiring journalist who knew him just a few minutes but upon whose life he would forever have an impact. King David—half preacher, half Satan, and all street smarts—had recorded the story of his recent exploits on audiotape, leaving behind an often-poetic sermon on villainy and its consequences. The tapes reveal that the cycle of violence and retribution his actions have spawned has come back on him full circle, as he suspected it might all along…

One of the most prolific and widely read black authors of his generation, Donald Goines wrote his first two books while incarcerated, and followed those with …16 novels written from the time he was released from prison in 1970 until he was shot to death in 1974. The film is directed by Ernest Dickerson whose directorial debut was the 1992 drama JUICE, starring Omar Epps and the late Tupac Shakur.”

Review

The overarching theme of this movie was a man’s misguided seeking of “redemption” for the very wicked way he had lived his life. The biblical message of redemption was not even close to being represented in the movie, so neither did he succeed.

The movie used a hodgepodge of religious imagery and sayings; from the Star of David that David Arquette’s character wore, to the Hindu teachings on karma and reincarnation. Also, the Bible’s teaching that “whatever a man sows he will also reap” was quoted. The movie appeared to infer that all religions have a valid view on redemption, and one must find the way that seems best to them. If they are sincere enough, then everything will eventually work out okay, and eternity is as much a gamble as anything else.

Aren’t all religions basically the same? Do Christians have a right to insist that one must believe in Christ to be saved? Answer

There were three central characters in the movie. One was a drug dealer called “King David,” (played by the rapper DMX) who was a man seeking redemption according to his own interpretation of the term. The other was a thug named “Mike” (played by Michael Ealy) who turned out to be King David’s illegitimate son. The other was a journalist called Paul, played by David Arquette. For the most part, the acting performances, the cinematography, and the special effects in the movie were really very good.

However, in his search for redemption King David was not even close to the biblical meaning. If anything his worldly sorrow for how he had lived his live came closer to the type of remorse that was displayed by Judas when he hung himself after betraying Christ. This “King David” had lived a very vile and violent life. He wreaked havoc in the lives of three women who foolishly allowed him to get them hooked on heroin-laced cocaine.

The movie does a wonderful job of showing the deadly effects of drugs, and that in the drug/gang culture nobody ever really wins. This was an obvious theme of the movie, and it came across loud and clear. I can’t see how anyone would ever want to use drugs after seeing this movie!

King David used the power of drugs to make these women totally dependent on him, and then he used them as his sexual toys. He eventually despised each of them after destroying their lives, and then he would move on to another woman, showing the foolishness of getting involved with someone of his character.

As a young boy, Mike saw “King David” beating his mother who had been begging him for child support and drugs. She threatened to call the police on him, and the threat sent King David over the edge. He went to her apartment and began beating her mercilessly. Young Mike tried to intervene and got a soda bottle broken across his face leaving a deep scar which was shown several times in the movie as a metaphor to the scarred spirit he had from his mother’s death, not having a father, and getting involved with bad people. Just like it says in the Bible: “bad company corrupts good morals.”

Mike did not really know “King David” was his father until the end of the movie. He saw his mother overdose on some heroin laced with battery acid that King David had given her, and he saw his sister get violently murdered in a parking garage later in life. Mike is portrayed as a sad victim with a bit of a conscience who’s probably would have turned out much better if he had had a good father and a good upbringing.

Paul was a white journalist who was fascinated by the black gangster culture. He moved into a small apartment in a part of town the gangs were to get a feel for what life was like in such a different environment. His desire was to write a story after immersing himself in the culture. He was portrayed as a naïve and simple man who really had no clue how different things can be in the gangster culture. Yet, he did seem to have a heart of compassion for King David after he was stabbed and bleeding to death. In a scene reminiscent of the Good Samaritan, he rushed a dying man he didn’t know to the hospital to try to help him and promised he would stay with him through the ordeal.

Through this encounter he inherits the gangster’s car and all of the contents in it. The contents, specifically some cassette tapes that King David had been recording about his life become a big part of the movie. As Paul listens to the tapes, flashbacks occur to what King David is describing, and Paul gets a real glimpse into the man’s tragic life.

The movie has a powerful theme and made me feel sad for the many people in our world who find themselves caught up in such terrible lifestyles.

It was riveting in its own way, but it wasn’t an entertaining or a “feel-good” movie. It was not boring and moved at a pretty good pace, it never lost my attention because I was following the story line and didn’t want to miss the messages by getting caught up in the violence and profanity.

Yet, because there were so many negative things in the movie itself, I would never recommend it for any Christian and could only wonder why a Christian would feel the need to see such a film. Do Christians really need to expose themselves to such profanity, un-godly/violent sex, horrific violence, and the movie’s messed up message of redemption in order to know how dark, confused, sin-filled, and desperately in need of the Gospel the world is? I really hope not.

For example, I couldn’t keep track of the number of times the F*-word in all its various forms was used; it was a constant barrage. The Bible instructs Christians to think on things that are good and praiseworthy, and to be careful to protect their hearts. While I doubt that anyone with any sense at all would walk away from the movie and want to be a drug user, a drug dealer, or even a gangster, it is also clear that the Bible instructs Christians to protect their minds and hearts from exposure to such language and imagery.

There were graphic sex scenes that left little to the imagination, and to the director’s credit, the sex scenes generally weren’t portrayed in a good light; they weren’t even titillating. They did not represent the beauty of the sexual relationship that can only be enjoyed between a husband and wife. I’m glad I didn’t go to this movie to be “entertained” because I would have been very convicted for having spent the Lord’s money in such a way.

To it’s credit, this movie will get some important messages across to the audiences that see it for what it really is. It will show the waste of life lived in the drug/gang culture, and how twisted people can become. It would be hard to miss the Biblical truth that Satan does not come except to steal, kill and destroy, and that behind all of the tragedy and mayhem of the drug culture is Satan himself who lives to destroy people.

It will show how drugs can turn men and women into slaves who are wasting away while turning into horrible shells of their former selves. It will show how ugly and tragic violence is when people turn guns on each other, and that sometimes violence hits too close to home if we flirt with it, perhaps taking the lives of people we love. It will show that there are far better ways to live, and that children need good mothers and fathers in stable families to take care of them, or they too may drift into the same kinds of wasted lives. And it does show that people will reap on Earth what they have sown. At the end of the movie it is made clear that Mike is given the opportunity and the freedom to choose a better life than he was living, or that his father and mother lived.

To it’s discredit, this movie does not even hint at the true message of redemption through repentance of our sins and salvation in Jesus Christ. No matter how a person may try to reform themselves, or make good for their past sins toward others, only Jesus can make us new creations through the new birth. The Bible teaches that man does not keep being born on this Earth until they get it right and eventually goes into a nirvanic-state (as Hinduism teaches), but that it is appointed to men to die once and after their death comes God’s final judgment.

The only thing that can save us from God’s judgment is the fact that Jesus was judged for our sins on the cross, and we can have God’s saving and transforming grace as a free gift through faith in Christ. While we can’t possibly make up for all the mistakes we made prior to being saved, we can receive a new life from God to be lived in the present and future, and which will carry us safely through this life into eternity.

In summary, while I appreciate some of what the director of this movie was getting across, I do not recommend Christians see this movie. I especially recommend that Christian parents not allow their teenagers to see it, the R-rating was very appropriate.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

Movie Critics
…an ambitious, introspective movie in which a heartless man tells his story without apology…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…The filmmakers get an A for intent but an F for execution…
—Tom Neven, Plugged In!
…plenty of bloody death scenes… most filmed in laughable slow motion… If there’s a purgatory for bad gangsta flicks, “Never Die Alone” will spend eternity there…
—Randy Cordova, The Arizona Republic
…never rises above the bling, bang… Only the viciousness of this lust-laced misogyny has any sting, however sordid. The rest of the plot depends on hand-me-down shoot-’em-ups…
—Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun
…Other than huge DMX fans, the sub-par gangster story… won’t appeal to many… David is so nasty that there’s no feeling any sympathy for this devil…
—Matt Lehky, Sun Newspapers of Cleveland
Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Neutral—I walked into this movie, not expecting much… your standard run of the mill “gangsta—flick” that was tailored for DMX, and rap fans. I must say I was very surprised, as the movie turned out much better than I anticipated. The story of this King David was definitely a tragic one. It’s scary to think that there probably really are drug dealers, and low-life people like this in the world.

The director Ernest Dickinson struggles at times to put the whole story together, and make it look genuine, and not contrived like another “mtv” video. Regardless, the picture he paints of King David is so vile, and corrupt, that by the end of the movie you are so disgusted with the character. The decisions and actions he did really affected so many people tragically in the film. You really feel as though the empty redemption he sought actually turned into condemnation at the end of his drug dealer life. I’m sure a guy this evil would definitely go to hell, if he wasn’t saved at the last minute…

Although I believe the execution could have been better, I definitely enjoyed the moral of the story. King David got what was coming to him in the end. After destroying so many lives, killing, and polluting the world with drugs, he received his due, at the hands of someone he least expected (don’t want to give away too much).

This movie is definitely not for Christians, but it does have a strong moral message, “what you reap, is indeed what you sow.” I recommend it only for those who are looking to see an anti-drug and anti-drug dealing message, portrayed on a worldly stage. Do not let your kids see it, until they are at least 21!!!, too much fornication, and evil drug use.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3½]
—Joey Cucchiaro, age 27