"You're the one who flew into the sun, I'm just here to make sure you burn!" - L
Light Turner, a student making solid grades, is appalled at the number of criminals escaping judgement, which doesn't explain his tendency to help fellow students cheat for payment. He stumbles across a book, with "Death Note" written on the cover. Seems a Shinigami, Death God, named Ryuk delivered it into Light's hands for the whole fun of it but there are a few rules to be followed, actually pages of them. Light soon learns he can determine the fate of those he wants punished by knowing their faces and real names, the then just needs to write their names into the book and writing out their style of death. Naturally Light goes into something of a rampage of killing which doesn't go unnoticed by local and international Law enforcement agencies.
Naturally Light spills the beans to Mia, a chick he fancies, which is going to bite him in the arse of course. Also hampering Light's campaign of cleaning up the mean streets of Seattle and beyond is freelance investigator L, an enigmatic character who has his own approach to solving cases. So it's soon a battle between Light and L, and both are going to pay a price for their battle.
Director Adam Wingard, (You're Next, Blair Witch), has for mine been steadily choosing worse movies to put his name to since his early success made him a name to watch out for. With Death Note one hopes that he has reached his lowest ebb as honestly I can't think of anything more poorly conceived than this U.S remake of the classic Japanese anime series. Okay before we start getting nasty emails there have been some solid U.S remakes of classic Japanese horror properties, Ring and The Grudge come immediately to mind, so this criticism isn't levelled at the North American film industry, its aimed squarely at the movie under review. To put it simply Death Note is poorly scripted, poorly acted, and I got to say the direction isn't going to garner many positive thoughts. Death Note appears to have been rushed with very little thought put in as to how to make it a coherent solidly narrated journey into the macabre.
I guess if you have been dialling into the manga, anime, and live action Japanese interpretations of Death Note then you will be able to follow what you see on screen in the American adaptation, otherwise you are probably going to be lost as the script endlessly jumps between major scenes making little attempt to explain the connections to the viewer. At times I was left wondering exactly what I was watching as totally unconnected scenes were being played out. To be honest even the Japanese live action adaptation split the events over two movies, there's simply too much going down for everything to be contained in a single movie, unless you want to go Peter Jackson director's cut length. Don't get me started on the dialogue that rolls off actors tongues like seepage from a broken sewer pipe. Yes I know the scribes were trying to stay faithful to the original Japanese script, they seem to have been completely oblivious to the fact that said dialogue was translated from the original Japanese and hence wasn't exactly classical level prose. Turn on your receiver there's a message coming through; they should have hired writers who actually got what the franchise was about.
There is absolutely no one improving their reputation in front of the camera at any stage of the running time of this movie. Performance are leaden with everyone simply lack lustre and only here to cash their cheques, as quick as possible. I'm not entirely sure what Netflix were thinking with this half arsed attempt, director Adam Wingard must have been simply going through the motions while waiting for the next big project to land in his lap. I am going to say that Lakeith Stanfield (L) tried his very best to play one of the most eccentric characters in cinema, but unfortunately fell well short of the weirdly mannered private investigator. Considering this straight to streaming effort doesn't appear to have had anything like dailies for an adult to sound the warning bells about I can only hope the cast get another chance in a more managed production to highlight their talents.
If ever a movie's Director deserved the term "by the numbers" then Death Note shines a harsh light on Adam Wingard in this regard. There are simply no flourishes behind the camera, no attempt at creating anything visually interesting, and definitely nothing beyond showing the standard point and shoot technic of amateur directors with little talent. Wingate has gone for mine from someone to keep an eye on, You're Next, to a director who simply does it by the numbers, Blair Witch. Perhaps he can resurrect his reputation; it won't be via flicks like Death Note. I know Wingate has his defenders but if you want to be honest then so do Rob Zombie and Eli Roth, regardless of the continued evidence being put on the table. Horror fans need to recognise when the Emperor is naked and not keep inventing excuses and outright lying about the state of things.
I guess everyone is kind of hanging out to hear how Ryuk was visualised, and at least here we have some good news. I've always envisaged the death god as dark and terrifying, with a wickedly dark sense of humour and the character is portrayed as such in this movie. I know a few people will be wondering about the apple thing, Ryuk loves the fruit kids it's explained in the magna and anime, your fault for not being across the fact. So yeah two thumbs up for the attention to detail, reproducing the death god exactly as expected.
Okay so first up there is a bit of sexy time going down, but not enough to have the rating ramping up, so don't get all excited ladies, more hinted at than humped we could say. In terms of the violence, pretty restrained with the odd death thrown in to the keep the plot moving, definitely nothing for gorehounds to get aroused over. Guess what I'm saying is we have strayed a long way from horror tropes and into pretty much meh territory, don't expect the freaky deaky here kids, we are no longer in Kansas after dark.
You know last movie review, the VVitch for those not paying attention, how I said every year recently a decent horror or two drops, well Death Note isn't one of those movies. While I managed to get through it, and hey it helped I've watched a butt load of the anime and Japanese live action movies, I'm not any better for the experience. There's some lazy film making going down, director Adam Wingard should be ashamed of himself, which really does no nothing for Netflix. Did no one think of actually managing this one, of checking the daily rushes to see what exactly Wingard was concocting here, or do anything to ensure the investment in the movie was going to realise something of worth. No recommendation on this one, and I'm a fan of the franchise, another absolutely half arsed effort to capture the fire of a foreign property by Yanks with no idea what they are doing. Was Gore Verbinski busy when Netflix were ringing around Directors for the movie? On the bright side take note, this effort is pretty much going to be the death of any ideas of further movies. Catch the anime if needing your Shinigami fix folks