Movie Review: “He Never Died” – Rollins Unleashed

Written by Jesse Gelinas February 06, 2016

Henry Rollins in He Never DIed

I’m a big fan of thrillers. I’m a big fan of comedy. When you can mesh these genres and manage to pepper in a cool twist on some classic theology, you’ve got a good thing on your hands. He Never Died is an interesting little genre flick from relative newcomer Jason Krawczyk. Filmed in Toronto on seemingly a shoestring budget, the film manages to put an interesting spin on some old folklore without getting bogged down in exposition and tired self-indulgence. It does however, leave a few frustrating questions unanswered.

Trailer

Normally I’d show you a short trailer here, but, as is the unfortunate trend today, the trailer for He Never Died contains a massive spoiler. So we’ll skip that today.

He Never Died introduces us to Jack (Henry Rollins). He’s a quiet, stoic man who just wants to be left alone. He seems to enjoy (enjoy might be the wrong word) sleeping away as much of his day as he can muster. And when he finally gets up, it’s either bingo night, or time for a visit to his hospital connection for a fresh bag of blood. But there seems to be more going on with Jack than your run of the mill vampirism, and when his newly discovered daughter Andrea shows up in trouble, a lot of other dark secrets suddenly rise to the surface.

“LET ME DIE!”

The film has a pretty simple setup. Jack wants to keep withdrawn from society for his protection and society’s. Troublemaking young woman shows up and manages to kybosh that plan almost immediately. Rather than a plot-heavy mystery or action-packed thriller, He Never Died focuses more as a character study on how Jack reacts to his new, inconvenient situation, and how much damage is done to those around him because of his nature. The concept works because Jack is a relatively interesting character, though we’re told very little about him at any point in the film, until a rather large revelation later on, putting most of his characteristics and personality suddenly into context.

Henry Rollins in He Never Died

While we watch Henry Rollins beat men to a pulp and eat their ears, or gorge himself on hospital-grade blood, we also get quite a few laughs, driven mainly by the deadpan delivery of the aging rocker. The humour is impressively subtle at times, and works to make the ridiculousness of the premise and the frustration of unanswered questions fall to the back of your mind. It’s a bit of a slow burn, but you’ll find yourself enjoying the journey more than looking forward to the finish.

“Jack, I’m beginning to think you just crawled out of the ground.”

Rollins himself does a lot to carry the film through the few bland, boring scenes, and manages to be a perfectly competent leading man. While he may not have the range of some other action stars, he finds himself a perfect fit for a reserved but layered badass.

Jack and Andrea play bingo in He Never Died

Where the film does get a bit irritating is in its refusal to provide ANY answers. After the revelation of jack’s identity, the audience and the characters have questions. And Jack literally says “I don’t want to talk about it.” That mystery man watching our hero from across the street? Who’s that? “Nobody,” we’re told. At times it feels like the basic story was thought up before the character of Jack was created. And that perhaps Jack’s own backstory was a sort of last minute addition to add a genre twist to a simple thriller tale. If this is the case, it works, but only to an extent.

“I’m going to kill you. Then I’m going to tear you apart and eat you.”

In the end, He Never Died is an enjoyable genre flick with a twist on classic mythology that puts it a cut above some other members of its ilk. It’s fun to see Henry Rollins in a role tat actually suits him (pretty much unseen since his short stint on Sons Of Anarchy). Apparently a mini-series follow up is currently planned. Suffice to say, the film has sparked enough interest in me to look forward to it.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Theatrical poster for He Never Died

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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