The mention of Henry Rollins tends to bring the idea of a ticking time bomb, ready to blow at any second. The former Black Flag/Rollins Band front-man is known for his colossal amount of energy and pretty strong presence in general. Having previously appeared in films like FEAST and TV shows such as Sons of Anarchy, one would think HE NEVER DIED would be another role for Rollins to chew up and explode with. Surprisingly though, the Jason Krawczyk-helmed film bypasses every single expectation, giving viewers not only an entertaining and memorable ride, but also features Rollins in a career defining performance, surely not to be missed by genre (and non-genre) fans.
As Jack, a man who has a very boring and very specific daily schedule, Rollins does an absolutely spectacular job, showing viewers a man (or at least we think so) that likes things to go a certain way. He sleeps, watches TV, plays bingo, and buys blood from a hospital intern. As a viewer, you’re already curious about those given elements, so when the smallest change in schedule happens for Jack, we’re curious to see how he’s going to react. The film feels like a time bomb, with its timer just waiting to go, but Rollins plays on that tension, and instead of exploding, gives us a stranger restraint.
When Jack finds out that he has a daughter (who is a recovering addict), instead of being the concerned father, he’s very “eh” about it, but allows her to stay at his apartment. Already changing part of Jack’s daily schedule, the film throws the character into a tense position, when the intern that supplies Jack with the blood (for mysterious reasons), gets beat up and abducted, Jack begins to lose the quiet and deadpan cool that he for most of the film, and shows us as viewers that he has a VERY violent side, one that will kill everyone trying to get in his way, without even thinking twice about it.
The mysteriousness of the film adds to the already completely enthralling performance by Rollins as Jack. He’s a revelation, a very good actor that exhudes toughness, but plays it with restrained quietness. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of Jack,because you want to know not only what he’ll do next, but who (or what) the hell he is. The addition of his daughter in his life, slowly shows us a side of Jack we don’t see at the beginning, but the film never teeters on being melodramatic. It has a set formula of providing an entertaining hybrid of horror and deadpan comedy, a perfect mix that never feels forced, not even once.
HE NEVER DIED gives Rollins a performance of a lifetime, and easily puts him on the map as versatile actor who can not only hold his own, but stand out and lead a film himself. It’s a bloody, intense and hilarious experience that will make you laugh and cringe, all while wanting to crank some Black Flag afterwards.