He Never Died is a Tootsie Pop of a movie. It has the outer shell of Taken — an estranged daughter kidnapped by a crime syndicate, a father who carves through waves of henchmen to get her back — but there’s an altogether different treat in the center.
That difference is Henry Rollins’s Jack, numb yet somehow magnetic; most movie tough guys are stoic, but Jack’s on another level entirely. The explosions and animalistic roars inside his head hint at a haunted past, but on the outside he’s a misanthropic bingo junkie who deadpans his way through every confrontation.
Suffering wound upon wound, Jack seems to only dimly recognize the danger around him, and he cares so little that it raises the stakes for everybody else. Kate Greenhouse plays a waitress who takes an interest in Jack; once he opens up, her utter incredulousness at the scope of his life is one of this slow-building film’s unexpected joys.
Also unexpected is how much humor Rollins brings to his role. At one point Jack lists his impossibly broad résumé, an ultra-prolonged gag whose goofiness he doesn’t even acknowledge. The action sequences have a similar aesthetic: Jack prevails not because he’s stronger, but because he can take enough punishment to outlast everybody.
He Never Died
Written and directed by Jason Krawczyk
Opens December 18, Village East Cinema