It took 30 years for deceased Detroit author Donald Goines to realize his dream — having one of his novels turned into a major Hollywood film.
Never Die Alone, starring rapper-turned-actor DMX and actor David Arquette, is based on the 1974 novel of the same name written by Goines, whose realistic tales of drug addiction, crime and prostitution have generated an international reader base over the years. Goines was murdered in Highland Park the same year that Never Die Alone was published. The murder remains unsolved. Since then, 10 million of his books have sold, and the 16 titles sell at an increasing rate, now at 250,000 books a year.
The film adaptation of Never Die Alone is visually engrossing, largely due to director Ernest Dickerson’s dim and grainy visual feel. Much of the movie is shot in darkness, helping to capture a sense of the film’s dangerous criminal element.
Recently retired from the rap music scene, DMX, co-producer of the film, delivers his most impressive screen performance to date as the heroin dealer King David. He falters only when writer James Gibson’s uneven script gives him weak, unrealistic dialogue. Other glaring script problems include the flawed logic that finds hit man Mike — movingly portrayed by Michael Ealy — suddenly placing the younger sister he loves in harm’s way to bait the lecherous King David.
Most egregious in plot issues is the oversimplified explanation that journalist Paul (Arquette), a good Jewish boy, is “slumming” in a neighborhood filled with gangs of hoodlums, just to find a good story. Arquette pretty much wanders aimlessly through the movie, randomly placing his life at risk to assist men who would just as soon slit his throat as shake his hand.
Despite such departures from the Goines novel, Never Die Alone manages to unfold as a reasonably decent story. Fans of Goines will find it less enjoyable than the book, but they will be gratified to see his writing get its due on the silver screen.
E-mail Eddie B. Allen Jr. at [email protected].