Earl Simmons didn’t reinvent the wheel with his acting career. Quite the contrary: during his 10-year box office run (we can argue about how long he’s remained an important factor in the movie industry, but 1998-2008 seems like a safe time frame), the majority of his roles distilled that same loose-cannon sh*t that he always rapped about into film form. There wasn’t the greatest variety in the kinds of films he picked.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
When Belly dropped in 1998, fans wanted to see DMX acting like DMX. And that’s exactly what they got: a destructive tour-de-force, exciting and entertaining. That same energy that he brought to the screen would manifest itself several times over the following years, including these five particularly noteworthy performances.
The movie that started everything. Casting X next to Nas (who was great in his own right) instantly created one of the best one-two punches seen in the urban crime genre. DMX stole the show here with his heroin-pushing Tommy, and while the flick wasn’t exactly a critical darling (clocking in at 13% on Rotten Tomatoes), the hip-hop community got exactly what they wanted: a gritty drug drama starring two of New York City’s bright young stars.
Romeo Must Die (2000)
The first team-up between X and Jet Li cast Simmons in a minor role, but he more than proved himself by playing Silk, a club owner tied up in some nasty business. A bit more reigned in than other roles, DMX showed a different face here than in projects past. The movie itself kicked all sorts of karate ass, thanks in large part to Li. The moviemakers knew what sort of box office draw DMX could be as he was heavily featured on posters, music and promotional runs despite his limited role.
Exit Wounds (2001)
Crooked cops? A loose-cannon protagonist? Eva Mendes? Exit Wounds borrowed a lot of characteristics from other cop dramas and was, technically speaking, a bad movie. But, in a way, that made it awesome; Steven Seagal flicks have a way of working like that. X provided the film’s charismatic, drug-dealing-baddie-turned-computer-genius-billionare, a role he played with conviction. Enter Exit Wounds with a proper state of mind (and maybe a little liquor) and you’ll be thoroughly entertained.
Cradle 2 The Grave (2003)
Putting his action chops to the test once more, DMX again teams up with Jet Li in this heist-gone-wrong drama. Set in San Francisco and featuring usual DMX feature actors Anthony Anderson and Drag-On, it didn’t pack the campy entertainment that was present in Exit Wounds and it wasn’t as timeless as Belly, but it did produce some of the best straight-up action scenes we’ve seen in an X movie. It also gave us one of the last great DMX tracks (“X Gon’ Give It To Ya”), for which gym rats everywhere are grateful.
Never Die Alone (2004)
Arguably the most ambitious in X’s career, everything linear about his past movies was dropped, being replaced with a more back-and-forth formula. Chronicling the past exploits of deceased drug lord King David (played by X), it’s up to David Arquette’s Paul to clean up the pieces of several wrong dealings. Thought-provoking and incredibly graphic at times, this is X at his most heinous. Needless to say, it’s impossible to look away.