Being a teenager in the 1990s, I fell in love with Henry Rollins. He is aggressive but smart, cool but crazy, serious but out of his mind. The music video for the song LIAR by The Rollins Band solidified my love for this man. Besides being one of the best frontmen in heavy music, he has also proven that. time and time again. he’s a top-notch character actor. with films like HEAT, THE CHASE, LOST HIGHWAY, and FEAST. It’s great that people are still writing movie roles specifically made for him.
HE NEVER DIED is just that. I could not possibly see anybody else in the role of Jack (Henry Rollins), the stoic outsider and social outcast. HE NEVER DIED is modern pulp noir with the kind of supernatural angle you’d find in an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and at the same time it has some great gore and even great drama.
When you are a loner, and you’ve done it all, and you’ve seen it all, the last thing you want is a call from your estranged ex-girlfriend from decades ago, telling you that you have a daughter, and that the daughter Andrea (Jordan Todosey) you never knew you had is in your city, drunk and unable to drive, and the only reason she’s there is to meet you. You can tell Jack doesn’t want to care. He didn’t ask her to come. He doesn’t want anybody in his fortress of solitude if he didn’t invite them. If Travis Bickle from TAXI DRIVER had lived to old age and been ground down by everything around him… that would be Jack.
Jack finds out that Andrea was at some scummy hole-in-the-wall bar, getting plastered, and that she went to hook up with some shithead barfly. We find out that Jack is some sort of superhuman, not to be messed with. Dude, an indestructible Henry Rollins… fuck yeah!
So, after rescuing Andrea, Jack brings her back to his place to crash for a night or two, and at this point he figures everything should be fine. There are very few things that cause Jack to leave his apartment. He likes walking to the diner, one about eighteen blocks from where he lives to eat his oatmeal, and he likes playing bingo. The humor in HE NEVER DIED is great! It’s the type of thing that gets serious belly laughs from me. It’s about as dry and sarcastic as it gets. Imagine GOLDEN GIRLS meets IN BRUGES. Just hysterical!
Besides being indestructible, Jack is also a brutal fighting machine. He’s being followed around by some goons dressed all in black who want to kill him. You would think that after the first time being brutally beaten to a bloody mess, they’d leave poor Jack alone, but nope, life can’t be that simple. For me, this is when the fun begins — just violence and gory awesomeness! Jack doesn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or eat meat (I know, sounds like he’s some straight-edge prick). That all changes, though, once he takes a bite out of one of his assailant’s neck.
Once Jack has a taste for blood, all he wants to do is fuck shit up. What perfect timing, the thugs that were trying to kill him figure out that it’s impossible to kill Jack, so they kidnap Andrea. It’s like a horror version of TAKEN, but on a smaller scale and way cooler. The biggest obstacle is that Jack needs a car to get around, and he doesn’t have one. The only other person that he’s halfway friendly towards is Cara (Kate Greenhouse), the waitress at the diner he goes to every day. She really doesn’t want to get involved, because she has seen first-hand what Jack is up against and what he can do. But with the promise of a million dollars cash, Cara reluctantly decides to help. The scene with Jack pulling a 9MM round out of his head with a pair of pliers while Cara is driving and freaking out, is pure cinematic gold.
ALERT… SPOILERS AHEAD…
It seems with the more blood Jack drinks, the more powerful he gets. Is he a vampire, a demon, or something else? Well Cara, being a nosy sidekick, goes poking through Jack’s personal property and finds some old photos. She inquires if they are of Jack’s father or even his grandfather. He replies that they are of him. So how old is this superhuman vampire-demon dude? Umm… old enough to be mentioned in the Bible. In the first book. Turns out that Jack is actually Cain — you know, the first human ever born — and he’s cursed to walk the earth for all eternity. Holy shit, awesome! Microphone drop!
HE NEVER DIED reminded me a lot of the SIN CITY movies. The pacing, the action, the characters, the blending of the fantastical and the ultra-violent. This is obviously not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Most people who like film noir are purists and would gag at the thought of mixing in other genre elements. Others may see it as boring, because of the deliberate pacing. For me, everything felt perfect. There are some unanswered questions left at the end of the film, but I kind of dig that. It leaves you thinking about the movie long after it’s over. Glad to see old Hank still playing Hank.
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