Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #585
Number of Views: One
Release Date: December 18, 2015 (SXSW), March 18, 2016
Country of Origin: United States/Canada
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Jason Krawczyk
Producers: Zach Hagen, Adrienne Stern
Screenplay: Jason Krawczyk
Special Effects: Randy Daudlin, Emily Carter
Visual Effects: Derek Grime
Cinematography: Eric Billman
Score: James Mark Stewart
Editing: James Bredin
Studios: 108 Media, Alternate Ending Studios
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Stars: Henry Rollins, Booboo Stewart, Steven Ogg, Jordan Todosey, Kate Greenhouse, David Richmond-Peck, James Cade, Don Francks, Elias Edraki, Tamara Almeida, Walter Alza, Scotty Cook, Karl Campbell
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Charlie Kim “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”
 The Moody Blues “Melancholy Man”
Have you ever wondered who you would have to kill to get a little peace and quiet? Despite our very best attempts at freewheeling, events continually conspire against us, and it can appear that forces way out of our control are at work as annoying distraction after annoying distraction prevent us from getting absolutely nothing whatsoever done. We can plan our lazy day to the letter, disconnect the phone, nail our doors shut, and seal ourselves into our reinforced hypersleep chambers if we so wish but, if that angry wasp has the same idea and has been pre-programmed to rain on our parade, then catching those forty stationary winks can feel like rounding up a rowdy thousand. Eventually the penny drops and we throw in the towel out of sheer exasperation, which is lousy news for whoever else decides to darken our doorway for the remains of the day. They say that misery loves company but I know a man who may argue the toss on that one.
You could say that Jack (Henry Rollins) is somewhat set in his ways. The words ☠DO NOT DISTURB☠ pretty much sum him up in a nutshell as the only thing he craves is a little Jack time and doesn’t take kindly to intrusions. He lives alone in his dingy apartment, keeps himself very much to himself, and is more than happy with that dynamic, although you wouldn’t guess by looking at him. Jack is also a man of few and simple pleasures. Once a day he visits his local diner for a cup of hot tea, once a day he engages in a few rounds of bingo at the local parlor, and that’s pretty much his daily chores sewn up. Of course, there’s only so much oatmeal a man can eat before he starts to go doolally so, when the craving for something a little “meatier” commences, he hits up medical intern Jeremy (Booboo Stewart) and gets it fresh off the gurney.
Had I not mentioned that he has slight cannibalistic tendencies? It’s a minor quirk as he really is a peaceful chap and has no desire to snatch vagrants from dark alleys just to satisfy his blood lust. I guess that would make him a functioning cannibal and, like everything else, he just works it into his daily routine and gets on with it. When you think of it, he’s actually a pretty upstanding guy for choosing not to fraternize with other members of society, as it keeps any murderous impulses to a bare minimum and enables him to just kick back and be idle in the comfort of his own squalor. Or that’s how things play out in theory anyhoots. In practice, poor Jack is like a one stop shop for endless harassment and having his rapidly diminishing patience severely tested at every conceivable turn.
As you may have guessed by now, Jack isn’t really the babysitting type so, when his estranged teenage daughter Andrea (Jordan Todosey) decides to ransack his peace and quiet and promptly gets herself kidnapped by a gang of local mobsters who’ve already rattled his cage and beat up his blood donor, the look on his face says it all and then some. To be honest, the look on his face seldom changes, but this just makes us root for him all the more. Now if he’d just call time on the bingo and take up poker, perhaps he could afford to sound proof his apartment and get some of that R&R that so callously eludes him.
Some girls can’t help but be drawn to stone-faced customers like Jack and the diner’s kind-natured waitress Cara (Kate Greenhouse) has gone got herself a bit of a crush on our sleep deprived sore head. While he is generally the very epitome of indifference and doesn’t buck the trend on her account, there’s an undeniable bond forming between them and he may well up his hot tea order to two cups if she continues playing her cards right. However, it’s business (and effectively everything else) before pleasure for Jack and romance will just have to wait. Let’s hope she’s cleared her calendar as he’s already as old as shit and beyond, and we’re talking biblical. The clue really is in the title with this one Grueheads and suddenly we can see why he’s not really the small-talk type.
Jason Krawczyk’s He Never Died is a rather glorious little movie by all accounts and we owe that to two factors in particular. The first is the screenplay (which Krawczyk is also responsible for) and is stuffed to the gills with smart and amusing dialogue. The second is the inspired casting of southern rock legend Rollins in the pivotal role as his portrayal of Jack is so utterly on-the-money that it’s hard to imagine anyone else stepping into his sunken loafers and leaving anywhere near the same impression. Deadpan to the point that we feel obliged to check him for a pulse, he soaks in each grievance and showcases every last one through expressionless expression if that makes any sense whatsoever.
Remember The Dude? What do you reckon was going through his mind as he involuntarily inhaled Donny’s ashes into his sinuses during his boneheaded pal’s botched scattering? Sometimes a face can speak a thousand words without ever needing to engage that motormouth and Rollins makes exquisite use of his coordinates in much the same manner.
As a result, He Never Died is all set to graduate into an episodic series and its hard to argue with that logic when such rapport has been built. The concept is positively ripe for further exploration and I’m thrilled for Rollins as he may well have bagged himself a defining role after less challenging turns in the likes of Wrong Dead 2: Dead End and Sons of Anarchy among others. He may not be required to emote a great deal but, make no mistake, the whole movie rests squarely on his broad shoulders and he carries the weight like it ain’t no thing in particular. The support is strong across the board and both Todosey and Greenhouse provide ideal foils for his shenanigans, but this is Rollins’s film and I’d pay good money for front row seats to observe anyone foolish enough to suggest otherwise.
He Never Died is something of a resounding success by all accounts and it would likely aggravate the eternal living piss out of Jack to learn that spending 99 minutes in his presence left me all inner smiles and disarmingly fuzzy glows. Granted, it could have been fleshed out more but let’s not forget Krawczyk’s bigger picture and I wish him nothing but success with pushing the envelope a little further in the not too distant future. He’s certainly got the balance right as, while the humor is often subtle, it also knows when to sink its teeth in when required, much like its leading man. Who knows, if it takes off, perhaps bingo halls will become all the rage again. I sure hope so as they had me at two fat ladies.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: The fact that He Never Died shifts at such a leisurely velocity makes the occasional outbursts of brutal violence all the more significant and Jack’s not afraid to clench those chompers around a nice bloody cutlet whenever push comes to shove. A man has to eat after all. Luckily for us, others don’t possess his powers of accelerated cell regeneration, and he sure as shit doesn’t hold back when dishing out those just-desserts.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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