Sunday, August 27, 2017

Horror Film Review

Death Note (2017):  Confession...I haven't read the manga or watched the anime.  Or the Japanese live action movie.  So I feel my review should be fairly objective.  Death Note nutters, I mean fans, apparently hate it with a passion hotter than the surface of the sun.  Well...duh.  What did they expect when 37 anime episodes or 12 manga stories are crammed into a movie that's just an hour and 41 minutes long?  Be like trying to make one Inuyasha or Naruto movie.  That this Netflix production is fully Americanized also puts their knickers in a twist; in Seattle, Light is white, L is black, etc.  Again...duh.  How about this - if you're a massive fan of Death Note, do not watch this.  OK?  Arigato.

A leather bound book (kind of ledger-sized) falls from the sky during a freak storm and lands at the feet of high school student Light (Nat Wolff).  The cover simply reads DEATH NOTE.  In detention for standing up to a bully, Light finds the pages are old and yellowed and chock-full of numbered rules/instructions.  Other pages contain hundreds of names written by many different people.  There are also blank pages.  If he writes a person's name in the book, that person will die by whatever means Light chooses.  Or so it says.  He thinks it's a load of crap, of course.  Until Ryuk, a Shinigami or Death God shows up in the detention room and scares the ever-loving shit out of him.  Light screams like a girl, by the way.  Essentially, Ryuk is like a devil on Light's shoulder whispering into his ear.  Sure, it explains the the basics of how the Death Note works but conveniently leaves out a number of loopholes and other fine print details.  It is evil, after all.  So Light gives it a trial run, deciding on decapitation for the bully, and sees it happen right before his eyes.  Frightened yet emboldened, his next victim is the scumbag who was acquitted for his mother's murder.  Light now has visions of ridding the world of all scumbags, and being the teenage boy that he is, he must share his secret with the girl he's sweet on, Mia (Margaret Qualley), a person who had no interest in him until she discovered the power he wields.  Yeah.  She's one of those.  Anyway, Mia and Light go on a killing spree and convince the world it's the doing of a shadowy figure named Kira.  Soon, crime levels drop because bad guys are terrified that they may be next.  Light's dad, James (Shea Whigham), is a cop investigating this Kira vigilante with the help of L (Lakeith Stanfield), an eccentric and super rich independent investigator who's not much older than Light but possesses the deductive prowess of Sherlock Holmes.  With both Ryuk and now Mia pushing him to blur the lines of morality, and L snapping at his heels, Light must figure out if the Death Note will be his salvation or ultimately lead to his demise.  All I can say is thank God for loopholes and fine print.

As groovy as all this may sound, Netflix's Death Note has its problems.  The ease with which Light settles into his role as judge, jury, and executioner is disturbing.  You'd think he's the Punisher or something.  Even though the victims are deserving, one would think there'd be a minute or two of hand wringing or conscience wrestling.  Nope.  He knocks off folks with the glee of a true sociopath.  Another problem is L, or rather the lack of sufficient explanation as to who this guy is and why everyone in authority bows and scrapes to him.  Kind of acts like a spoiled punk to me.  And then there's Mia.  She's so obviously a power hungry bitch who cares nothing for Light that you want to scream at the TV, "WTF is wrong with you, Light?  Wake up, dumbass!"  Ah, well.  Teen boy hormones.  Whaddya gonna do?

The Skinny

Acting:  No one sucked.  That's something.  Okay...Standfield as L could have been less annoying.  Willem Dafoe is the voice of Ryuk and he kills it.
Story:  American reimagining of the classic Japanese saga.  It works better as a Japanese saga.  The script steps on its own tail and fails to generate any real tension or pathos.
Direction:  It's not the easiest movie to follow.
Production Values:  One thing about Netflix, they don't scrimp on the budget.  I've seen big studio movies that look much worse.
Gore/FX:  Blood and gore reminiscent of the Final Destination films.  That is to say, lots.  They show the bully's decapitation by runaway ladder.  Nice.  And the CGI for Ryuk is properly done.
Scares:  None that I remember.
Ending:  Here's another problem.  It leaves you hanging.  Will he or won't he?  The last line of the movie, Ryuk saying, "Humans are so interesting," certainly doesn't help.
Verdict:  Should you see Death Note?  If you're not a fan of the anime or manga, then I'm leaning toward "Yes" but just barely.  If you are a fan of the anime or manga, spare yourself the righteous indignation that will no doubt give you the vapors and go find a new anime or manga.  I personally recommend One Punch Man.

Rating:  3 out of 5

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