Donald Goines was a petty miscreant and heroin addict on the streets of Motown back in the early-'70s. By age 36, he had been in and out of the joint on a variety of charges, from vagrancy to armed robbery. And for five short but prolific years he was also the modestly popular author of 16 lurid pulp novels based on his experiences on the mean streets. That career came to a violent end when he and his girlfriend were gunned down in their apartment one night, allegedly with Goines at his typewriter. The crime was never solved.
With that in mind, some elements of the screen version of Goines’ gritty novel Never Die Alone hold an extra-morbid fascination. Rapper DMX portrays pimp and heroin dealer King David, returning to the Big Apple to make amends with the drug lord he had burned on a deal years before. Things don’t work out quite right, and he finds himself being rushed to the emergency room by Paul, a wannabe chronicler of the thug life (David Arquette). Paul inherits the king’s crown: a pimpmobile loaded with bling bling, cash and an audio diary of King David’s short and savage life.
Set in the ‘70s and maintaining the grainy, acid-fried low-budget look of the era, Never Die Alone is rich in style but thin on plot. Essentially, it’s a gangsta-noir portrait that fleshes out one of the most singularly evil anti-heroes to hit the screen since Tony Montana. Compelling, with some nice allegorical touches.