Death Note is one of the worst movies I have seen in quite some time and I am disappointed by that. The story is an extremely interesting premise. A boy finds a notebook that is tied to a demon which allows him to write the names of whoever he wants to die and the manner in which they die. Further, the person with the notebook can control the people who they want to die for up to 48 hours before their death. The idea behind the film, as inspired by the long running manga, is intriguing and full of potential.
The first misstep was the casting for the lead. Light Turner, as portrayed by Nat Wolff, is boring and unbelievable. A large chunk of the story is that Light becomes a vigilante known as Kira and he goes about killing off criminals throughout the world. To be able to commit countless murders like this, you would have to be pretty empty and psychologically damaged. Light doesn’t fit either profile and his first killing is especially indicative of this. It just didn’t fit the character of a good kid who just wants to live his life. I didn’t believe that Light would be capable of mass murder and a large part of that is because of his first interaction with Ryuk. Light freaks out like a little child (to be fair any of us would be scared to see a demon) but the acting was embarrassing and I found myself cringing at the terrible performance from Wolff. Since this was near the beginning of the film, I lost confidence in the actor and didn’t believe much of what he did from then on.
Speaking of Ryuk, William Dafoe teamed up with Netflix again to lend his great acting chops to the studio. Once again, Dafoe proved that he is a great villain! I loved his performance as Ryuk. In an embarrassingly bad film, Ryuk was something I looked forward to seeing. His character was so well acted that I wanted nothing more than to see Ryuk die and the power of the Death Note destroyed forever.
The same cannot be said for the others in the supporting cast. Margaret Qualley as Light’s girlfriend Mia started off well until she became completely unhinged. Perhaps there is a corrupting power to the book that is explained in the manga but not here but Mia went from relatively sweet girl to being completely fine with killing virtually anyone. It didn’t make sense for the character or logic. The actress did a fine job with what she was given but, since she was given garbage to work with, she wasn’t able to turn it around.
Another terrible character is L (Lakeith Stanfield), a super detective obsessed with taking down Kira. His backstory is explored briefly enough to inform us that he is one of a group of people trained from youth to be the best detectives in the world. This bit of information is great but it doesn’t justify his deranged behavior (see how he “sits” on chairs below) and obsession with candy. The character was probably one of the best parts of the manga but, in a short film, he just came across and crazy and unlike-able.
Death Note is a poorly executed film, devoid of any like-able characters except the Death Demon Ryuk. It portrayed a high number of overly gory deaths which only made me take the film less seriously and dislike it even more. Character development was unrealistic and poorly executed, the run time of an hour and 41 minutes was not enough time to tell this story well and the main character was one of the worst casting decisions I have personally seen in a long time. Death Note took an ambitious story and idea and attempted to make something that could have been a cult classic. Unfortunately, the ambition turned into a garbage script where the Death Demon was more charming than any of the heroes.
2 out of 5 Cushions on the Couch!!!