A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is about people who are engaged in crime and corruption. It has constant and extreme violence, including many graphic murders. The main characters are drug dealers, and the movie includes drug use (heroin and cocaine) and overdoses, including a mother whose overdose is discovered by her children. Characters use extremely strong and hostile language, including the "N" word, and they treat each other with emotional as well as physical brutality. There are explicit sexual references and situations, including a graphic sex scenes and a threesome involving twins.
What's the story?
In NEVER DIE ALONE, "King" David (rap star DMX) is a drug dealer who returns to New York to make his peace with his former boss, Moon (Clifton Powell). David took Moon's drugs to California and started his own drug business. He offers to pay Moon whatever he asks to make up for it, but the transaction heats up and David is mortally wounded. Paul (David Arquette) finds David and drives him to the hospital. David asks Paul to find his son and tell him that "his old man was a warrior," and leaves Paul his car. In the car, Paul finds tapes hidden in a hollowed-out Bible – David's spoken-word diaries. Paul is a writer searching for a way to tell the story of the streets and he's fascinated with David's "nobility." As Paul listens to the tapes, we follow David's story from his arrival in L.A., where he cozies up with small-time starlet who helps him build his business. David meets a woman he really cares for because she is "beautiful, intelligent, and uncorrupted." Then he corrupts and destroys her, because caring for her made him feel weak. Abusing her made him feel "loved and appreciated."
Is it any good?
This movie's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness -- it wants to be more than the usual drug dealer shoot-em-up. It deserves some credit for its ambitions. But those ambitions tip it over into pretentious melodrama that only emphasizes how far short of its aspirations it falls.
DMX gives David power and dignity. But the character is already so corrupt and empty that it is impossible to find the "nobility" Paul sees in him. David does not learn or grow or change for the better or worse, and so there is no sense of journey to move the story forward. Overly melodramatic flourishes and overly symbolic images also separate us from the characters. A coffin is pushed into the flames of a crematorium as a car drives into a tunnel. A writer banging on a typewriter instead of a laptop and a slinky nightclub chanteuse recall the gangster movies of the 1930's. And a relationship revealed at a critical moment is intended to bring everything full circle, but just feels manipulative.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: March 25, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: July 12, 2004
- Cast: David Arquette, DMX, Drew Sidora
- Director: Ernest Dickerson
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, drug use, sexuality and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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