Reach exceeds grasp in He Never Died, a film whose ambition isn’t quite matched by its execution. Darkly comic and packing a few intensely satisfying moments, its combination of strong performances, some genuinely funny interactions and a fresh, unusual twist can’t fully offset its willingness to rest a little too much on its laurels in its second act.
Jack (Henry Rollins) is a man attempting to lead as peaceful an existence as possible. Spending his spare time occupying a table alone in his local diner or playing bingo, he’s keeping himself to himself in particularly low-key style. The only unusual addition to his social calendar? His regular meetings with a hospital intern, from whom he purchases blood to sustain himself and fend off the temptation to descend into cannibalism.
So not your average loner, then. Rollins inhabits the role with a quiet intensity that makes his blunt interactions with society disarmingly funny, and the film uses his physicality to its advantage when he’s visited by mobsters looking for his blood-dispensing friend. In the first of many stylised and slickly executed fight sequences, he despatches them with little difficulty in a manner both amusing and exhilarating. Soon after, he’s visited by his estranged daughter Andrea (an engaging Jordan Todosey), and his simple routine is disrupted still further. As Jack and Andrea interact and their relationship develops – against the backdrop of Jack becoming an increasingly urgent target for the criminals – He Never Dies develops two key strengths that ultimately start to become weaknesses by way of sheer repetition.
Todosey’s bright, sunny demeanor makes for good foil for Rollins’ dryness, and while their interactions both with each other and the other people they encounter are welcome respite from the film’s darker moments, Jack’s “odd couple” dynamic with both Andrea and love interest Cara (Kate Greenhouse) ultimately gets a little rote. Elsewhere, while Rollins delivering repeated ass-kickings to “the bad guys” is inherently entertaining, that too begins to wear a little thin, and while He Never Died recovers to a degree with a third-act revelation that’s both original and unexpected, it’s still a film whose impressive conceptual ambitions are hampered by its willingness to play just a little safe with its easy crowd-pleasers.