HE NEVER DIED (USA/Canada 2014) **1/2
Directed by Jason Krawczyk
Review by Gilbert Seah
HE NEVER DIED is an odd movie with a theme that counters the good cheer of the Christmas festivities. It is everything the festive season isn’t, so if one is fed up of friends and family and want something completely different, HE NEVER DIED might just be the film to satisfy.
The film is an off-beat one with an equally off-beat character. When the film opens, Jack (Henry Rollins) answers a knock on the door. It is his landlady. Paying cash from a suitcase full of money, he asked her for the time, date and day of the week. He then goes to his usual restaurant and orders the same stuff – hot tea. Things get weirder.
Apparently, he discovers he has a daughter, Andrea (Jordan Todosey).
People are trying to get to him and kidnap Andrea as a result. Jack is shown to display super human strength. Though he gets hurt, bullets do not kill him. And Jack plays BINGO to kill time. (See photo inset of Jack with his dabber.)
So what is the explanation? It comes right at the end of the film. It does not make much sense, but at least it is an explanation. A few things are left unexplained, such as how he got the suitcase of money and how he got some woman pregnant.
But the entertainment of the film comes from Rollins’ performance. He is simply the best thing of the film, delivering a deadpan performance, full of one-liners while constantly sneering. Rollins is no newcomer in film, but he has never landed a leading role before.
His credits include bit parts in Michael Mann’s HEAT, JACKASS: THE MOVIE, BAD BOYS II and LOST HIGHWAY. The supporting cast do not fare badly either. Booboo Stewart plays a native student, Jeremy, capturing the perfect slacker loser character while Steven Ogg plays the villain, Alex over-the-top in contrast to Jack’s character. Kate Greenhouse plays Cara, the waitress who tries to date Jack, though one cannot see any reason to do so.
Krawczyk’s film is exceptionally violent but deserves to be so. Without it, the film would lose the audience’s attention. The violence feeds into the audience so that more and more is wanted. It is human nature to root for the underdog who is trying to survive no matter what reason. So when Jack clips off a victim’s finger or breaks another’s foot to prevent him from escaping, one can only winch and watch.
The film is a U.S. and Canadian co-production shot in Toronto. The setting of the film is never mentioned but judging from the American notes in Jack’s suitcase and one reference to Jack being in the Civil War, it is assumed that the film is set in the States.
But the one-joke one-gimmick film is unable to sustain the 90-minute length. Despite the violence and super-dry dead pan humour, HE NEVER DIES would be deemed too slow for most audiences.