Jack, a tough-guy and social outcast whose only connection with the world is the occasional mysterious delivery by a medical student, finds himself at the centre of several violent altercations, the results of which force him to interact with those around him whereupon his secret past is slowly revealed.
The beauty of film festivals is that oft times you sit down to enjoy films you know little to nothing about, not something too common with regular cinema visitations in these times of the trailer obsessed internet.
It was at the Mayhem film festival, with nothing but a two line blurb to prep me, that I watched He Never Died, my highlight of the festival and a film of genuine originality in both concept and execution. The kind of film that should be far more watched and appreciated than it inevitably will be, this reviewer for one will be recommending it to all who will listen, but the catch twenty-two is that the more you know about it up front the less amazing that first viewing will be, because He Never Died thrives on its unpredictability.
Defying genre by running from one to the next and blurring the lines between, writer/director, Jason Krawczyk, has put together a film that despite an excellent concept which requires your patience for it to run a course to an unprecedented conclusion, actually lives or dies by it’s astonishing lead character.
Jack, a perfectly crafted character, is one of those cinematic gems that comes along when the writing, casting and acting decisions coalesce better than they have any right to. Tough as nails, his seeming disinterest in anything make his human interactions hilarious in a way that’s very difficult to describe, but Krawczyk and lead actor, Henry Rollins, wield the character so boldly that it’s impossible not to love the guy. Frankly, if there was no story in He Never Died at all I’d be just as happy watching Jack go through the boring motions of his life, just so long as someone tried to talk to him from time to time.
There is a story though, and it’s a very good one. As previously mentioned, you will never guess where it’s going and as a rare treat it lets you discover the ins and outs of the proceedings at a laid back pace that creates its own sort of mystery as well as gifting every other scene with great yet none-forced reveal.
The visuals aren’t slick but they are spot on for the story it has to tell and the budget they have to tell it with, a trait shared with the film’s pace.
Little more can be said without spoiling it to some degree, but as a strange aside I feel for reasons that don’t extend to genre and story, He Never Died is most comparable with such films as Super and Worlds Greatest Dad, it’s small in scope but massive in concept, has a central character that is lovable while doing things that are deplorable, and as a whole has a sense of honesty and heart that can only come from personal films that are executed deftly by a filmmaker of conviction and vision.
He Never Died is quite simply brilliant. Original, unpredictable, well paced and confident, I can’t wait until it gets a general release here in the UK so I can watch it again. It’s only Jason Krawczyk’s second feature so consider him someone to keep a keen eye on, he may soon be following in James Gunn’s shoes.