I’m just going to call He Never Died the first feature-length film written and directed by Jason Krawcyzk, though he’s made two other films, Hard Damn Hitch coming in at sixty-three minutes and Briefcase at seventy-six. We can argue the dictionary term of feature length, or I can just come out and say I feel ripped off by anything calling itself a feature under 90 minutes. That’s not a review of those two films at all. Just me on my “definition-of-feature-length” soapbox. He Never Died opens with flashing lights, screams of agony, the sounds of war, and a man in bed in his apartment as someone knocks. As he rises to answer the door we also hear what seems like the tearing of flesh and a lot more screams of agony, and we see two long thick scars at his shoulder blades. At the door is the landlady. He opens the door, sees her, shuts the door, and goes to a footlocker filled with cash from various countries. While the trunk is open we hear more screams of agony. After an awkward conversation with the landlady, he shuts the door on her, but we learn his name—Jack, played by the multi-talented, Black Flag frontman, singer, songwriter, poet, actor and even horror anthology host, Henry Rollins. I missed the whole Black Flag craze being stuck in rural Louisiana at the time, which should explain my lack of experience with anything remotely resembling punk from this time period, but I saw Black Flag stickers everywhere when I went to film school in California in 1994. One of my favorite types of shows is the anthology show like Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Tales from the Crypt, etc., and I remember Rollins as the host of the short-lived Night Visions TV series from 2001 for which it appears he is not credited on some sites. I hope he doesn’t beat me up over it, but I found him horribly miscast as a host for a supernatural show, but then he’s up against Rod Serling and the Crypt-Keeper. After perusing his work in film and TV, I’m impressed by his regular work, even though our paths on the TV rarely cross. After paying his landlady the rent, he goes to and leaves church and meets Jeremy (Booboo Stewart), a medical intern from whom he buys a package of something. Jeremy, just like the landlady, attempts small talk, but Jack isn’t interested. He returns home, puts the package in the frig, sits down with the remote, and someone’s at the door again—a girl who says nothing and runs away. Jack takes all of this nonchalantly as if none of it concerns him, nor does he care. He lies down and hears similar audio as before and there’s another knock. This time, it’s two men, Short (James Cade) and Steve (David Richmond-Peck) looking for Jeremy, and a fight ensues. Short jabs Jack in the kisser to little effect, and Jack instantly and casually just pushes them both out the door and shuts it. The two kick the door down, Short pulls a gun on him, but Jack casually—I’m going to need some more synonyms because he reacts this way throughout the film—Jack casually hits the gun out of his hand. Short then slaps him in the face, and Jack merely says, “Don’t,” but Short slaps him again and all hells breaks loose for these two. Jack grabs Short in his amusement park, not gently either, as Short’s exclamations prove. Steve draws a gun. Jack grabs the barrel with his free hand, and the guy fires into his hand, with a nicely lit blood spray. He then drags both guys out of his apartment and into the hall, getting pepper-sprayed by Steve, and he shuts the door. Then, he wraps his hand and goes to the diner for some oatmeal and hot tea. I’m not brushing these events off as I write them. It’s a reflection of his character. Rollins plays the frustrated antisocial loner who just wants to be left alone, and he shines doing so, as tough as Bogart, Eastwood or Bruce Willis. The girl at the door who ran away was Amanda (Jordan Todosey), the daughter he didn’t know he had, and the dialogue when she explains who she is is exceptional. They never say out loud that they’re daughter and father. They talk around it like screenwriting books tell you to do. He rescues her from a drunken one-night stand, they have some family moments playing his favorite past-time, bingo, and then she gets kidnapped. In another plotline, he rescues Jeremy, the medical intern, from torture, but he really just wants his next package. It turns out the same two thugs who broke into his room are involved in both incidents. Jack goes to the diner about five hundred times and Cara (Kate Greenhouse) usually serves him. She asks if he’s free tonight, but he doesn’t get that she’s asking him out, and he brushes her off as he did the landlady. When he acts like this he’s not being a douchebag. He plays it almost like a disorder throughout the film or like a typical dumb male. A mysterious man in a hat appears occasionally, named “Goatee Man” in the credits and played by Don Francks. Jack follows the clues to another man behind it all, Alex (Steven Ogg), an owner of a club where Jack once worked for Alex’s dad, and where hell ensues with so much blood that instead of calling in the custodians they’re going to need to call a new decorator. Why Henry Rollins doesn’t star in higher profile parts than this is the real mystery. Perhaps it’s by choice, and judging from his online profiles, that’d be my guess, but I would love to see his performance under the direction of some of the current greats, though he did have a bit part in Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997). Don’t misread me though. The director of He Never Died, Jason Krawczyk, deserves credit for getting and directing Rollins. In fact, Krawczyk’s greatest skill might be his casting and directing. Kate Greenhouse eats up the screen as the waitress struggling to communicate with the distant misanthrope that Jack is. Most of the time it’s the chemistry that’s applauded between two characters, but what Krawcyzk has done in his writing and directing is creat two characters whose lack of chemistry is the chemistry. I can’t explain it better than that. She just keeps beating with pent-up emotions on the wall that is Jack. Yeah, that’s what I mean. And David Richmond-Peck as Steve, man. His character actually had a nice little arc that was both written and acted very well. Most of the time fear is portrayed by screaming or crying. I don’t remember ever seeing a character in a film as genuinely frightened as Steve when he’s alone with Jack near the end, and Richmond-Peck just wears it all on his face. My favorite fight scenes are usually unedited, but they pull off some good edited fight scenes here. There’s a great inspiring sequence where Jack tries to find someone to kill, but is thwarted by gangs of nice young men in back alleys. The mysterious packages are revealed which add to the mythos of Jack, but leaves questions. There were a few scenes where the characters are talking side by side and there’s half a screen of wasted space at the backs of their heads that doesn’t make any sense at all, symbolic or otherwise. I honestly didn’t catch the audio flashbacks the first time, at least that’s what I’m calling them. I’m not deaf or anything. They just didn’t seem important. I think the information in the audio flashbacks was more important and should’ve been presented visually. They read like a fix-it-in-post solution created after a test screening. Two main problems. It’s billed as a comedy. I’m not the laugh-out-loud type when it comes to comedy. I just give a little smile. I’m oftentimes surprised by audience laughter when watching a film in a theater. I guess I just don’t find guffaw-type humor much. But I know that this film is not a comedy. I suppose it could be argued to be a thought-provoking comedy or the kind of humor based on irony, or in a more popular explanation and in the words of C&C Music Factory: “Things that make you go hmmm.” But it is not a comedy, and shouldn’t be called such. There are some comedic moments, like when Jack lists all the jobs he’s ever had, and when Cara asks where Andrea is, he says, “Probably with her mother.” Her mother’s dead. He’s saying that Andrea is probably dead too, but the joke, dark though it is, falls flat if you’re not keeping up. I actually think the problem there is that we don’t see the mother die, we only hear it via an answering machine, and like the audio flashbacks we probably need some visuals for these important details. The other main problem is that I’m confused. The mystery surrounding Jack’s true identity is revealed, but it doesn’t make sense to me, and I can’t explain my confusion without spoiling it. It appears to be a case of Let the Audience Wonder or Leave It to Their Imagination in the sense of Michael Myers in Carpenter’s original concept of Halloween—we don’t know why he does what he does. But in He Never Died, leaving the film with unanswered questions doesn’t work. Furthermore, I try not to read about a film before viewing it or before writing these reviews, but while looking for names, I happened upon the true identity of another character, and I’m just flummoxed. I had no idea. I really want to scream my confusion over both of these problems. I, however, am an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist, so maybe it won’t bother everybody. I find myself sometimes saying the same thing in these reviews: the movie had some problems but I liked it regardless. I don’t want to be labeled as an apologist for filmmaker underdogs, but I liked more of this film than I disliked, even though Jack’s true nature is poorly explained and we’re left with a number of questions about his origins and basic questions of logic, the film is an acting tour de force even from some of its minor characters, the fight scenes are cool, some of the kills are unique—wait for the throat kill—and the story is basically good and original. In fact, the film really is a noir-ish character study of a man pushed too far a la Mel Gibson’s Payback (1999) and Joel Schumacher’s underrated Falling Down (1993), and the cinematography by Eric Billman reads like noir in color. Just know that while I might actually be an apologist for underdogs, there are lots of films I watch for which I cannot write a review because I just don’t have enough nice things to say. As an aspiring filmmaker I’ve read all kinds of theories on how to make a low-budget first film, and the main one is to get a name actor in there. Most people put the name actor in a bit part, but again, I’ll say that Krawcyzk did one better by putting Rollins in the front seat, and he probably won him over with an original concept and story along with a well-written script. If Krawcyzk can pull this off, I’m sure he can pull off more, and I’d like to see more. I’m still just so confused. Well, I might as well say it. It’s on the box art and it’s the first shot of him, but why did he once have wings. Why? Why? Why? See larger image He Never Died Jack (HENRY ROLLINS) is in a rut. His existence has been whittled down to sleeping and watching TV and he sees the human race as little more than meat with a pulse. When Jack suddenly finds his long lost daughter taken by the city’s crime syndicate, he must combat his inner demons as he embarks on a bloody war path to seek revenge and save her. New From: $6.78 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.