The Story: Jack is a laconic vegan who likes hot tea and Bingo night. He's also immortal.
Expectations: Recently I worked on a documentary project where Henry Rollins was one of the interviewees. The actor, comedian, punk musician, radio deejay, author, and human rights activist referred to himself in the interview as a “work slut.” “If there’s something interesting to do,” he said, “I’ll try it.” And he does most things well—because he never holds back. Knowing that, I was excited to see this film.
Reaction: Rollins’ character in HE NEVER DIED is also a renaissance man. In one scene, Jack rattles off a long list of jobs he’s held over the years. The scene goes on and on and on. And on. And on. Finally, the woman he’s speaking to asks him, “How old are you?” He responds, “I’m in the Bible if that means anything.” Not a lot of people could pull off a line like that. Rollins’ deadpan delivery makes it work. In fact, his deadpan humor makes the entire movie work… up to a point.
The first half of HE NEVER DIED reminds me a lot of THE PROPHECY, the 1995 cult movie starring Christopher Walken as the archangel Gabriel. I love that movie, because I love Walken’s dry wit—but THE PROPHECY falters in the third act, when it tries to be about something other than Walken’s dry wit. The same is true of HE NEVER DIED. As it answers more and more questions about Jack’s true nature, and starts grasping for some kind of conventional plot and resolution, it loses a lot of momentum. Which is tragic, because I really loved the first half. The second half reminds me of the Mel Gibson remake of PAYBACK. I like PAYBACK, but… I was watching THE PROPHECY, dammit.
I wish HE NEVER DIED had been conceived as a pilot instead of a movie. It could have been the setup for a Netflix series where Henry Rollins roams the earth like Caine in KUNG FU...
Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: There’s an ankle-breaking scene that’s pretty cringe-worthy, but this movie is too hilarious to give any horror fan nightmares.