Never Die Alone

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


With Never Die Alone, Ernest Dickerson has fashioned a richly literate film noir that partakes of the heritage of that genre while slyly parodying its contemporary manifestations. Based on the cult novel of the same name by the popular ex-con author Donald Goines, this tale focuses on a drug dealer, King David, superbly portrayed by rap artist DMX . His return to his home turf sparks an explosive cycle of long-simmering vengeance and struggle for supremacy in, as we've come to expect from Dickerson, a multilayered film that is stylishly cinematic.

But this portrait of a killer is not the standard glamorized representation of a hip-(hop) gangster with an ethical twist at the end. Dickerson's masterly skill as a storyteller invents a self-conscious hero with a self-aware direction and creates an atmosphere that impacts his audience's moral sensibilities as well as their gut. With an ensemble of strong performances, particularly by David Arquette in a key role, Never Die Alone is an entertaining journey, but, like Elmore Leonard and other revitalizers of the pulp universe, it works a refreshingly daring variation on the hard-boiled formula.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

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