Although the live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga Death Note did not lack for interesting plot twists or originality, its ultimate downfall is in the fact that its leading man generates so little sympathy.
Death Note revolves around university student Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who finds himself in possession of a journal called the “Death Note.” Inside the Death Note are instructions on how to use it and also a lot of blank pages. Although rules of conduct and tips for usage are revealed to the audience throughout the movie, let me break it down like this: You write somebody’s name in the Death Note and 10 seconds later they die of a heart attack. Anybody, anywhere. If you want something snazzier than an out-of-the-blue heart attack, the owner of the Death Note can even specify what time, what place and other details of their victim’s final moments. The Death Note’s former owner, Ryuk (Shido Nakamura), a creepy-ass CGI-ed “Death God” who looks like he was taken right out of Guitar Hero, hangs out with Light for no apparent reason other than some comic relief.
After a brief period of skepticism about the Death Note’s actual power, Light starts in on his reign of criminal terror. This is where your initial endearment to our passionate protagonist begins to wane. Light goes from killing a few convicted murderers, to pretty much massacring anyone who shows up on his television screen. His initial good intentions transform into something more sinister. You know that when your friendly neighborhood Grim Reaper is telling you that you’re “worse than a Death God, a true devil” things are bad.
I actually really liked this movie. I was drawn in by the whole concept of the Death Note and the Reapers. I liked the way Good Vs. Evil was portrayed; was killing these criminals actually “ridding the world of evil and fear” as Light at one point proclaims, or is he being unfair, killing so mercilessly and without proper evidence? This movie does not get a five out of five stars for me because besides taking on an erratic, yet unnecessarily leisurely pace Light’s actions toward the end of the movie lose their sympathetic, understandable edge and dive straight into the realm of out and out sadism without any explanation as to why.
Here’s hoping the sequel will kick it up a notch.
Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Genre: Supernatural crime thriller
Run time: 126 minutes
Mabel Vautravers is a happening teen, newly arrived in the US after four years in Denmark. She likes Japanese cinema, punk and edamame. She hopes her stomping will take her places. (Editor's note: Keeping our fingers crossed.)