Death Note is a slick beauty of a cute little teenage horror/action/suspense film that you don’t want to miss. You can stream it on Netflix, so there’s no excuse not to take an hour and forty minutes out of your evening sometime soon to see it. There’s enough eye candy here for young and old alike, with its gorgeously shot scenes – everything from cityscapes to gothic ruins to high school proms – and enough hip and cool and panache to fill any-aged heart with joie de vivre.
The film is based on a Japanese manga series of the same title, and the adaptation is pretty clever. A primal struggle between good and evil, the film does a deliberately heavy-handed version of Where does good end and evil begin?, which works perfectly to take away the burden of worrying about it early on, allowing the viewer to concentrate on the fun: the knock-out beauty of the sets, the cleverness and choreography of the chase, the wit and humor of the dialogue, the young, beautiful actors who just so totally light up the screen.
“Only as the credits roll do we truly understand the nature of the creature’s mysterious sex appeal.”
Nat Wolff plays Light Turner as a bright, normal kid not above charging fellow students for illicit help with their homework, whose otherwise normal day turns into an adventure when a leather-bound notebook with the words “Death Note” on the cover, out of the suddenly stormy skies, falls into his lap, so to speak. He discovers, after reading the notebook’s numerous “rules” inside, that by writing the name of a person in the notebook, he can murder that person. He begins with the school bully, and develops a taste for it.
Beautiful cheerleader Mia Sutton (Margaret Qually, who lights up the screen in a wonderful way) senses his inner rebel, coyly pursues him, and ends up getting into all the morally justifiable killing far more enthusiastically than he does. Lakeith Stanfield as “L,” a lean, young superdetective with a twitchy, expertly rendered otherworldly presence, enters to put a stop to it all while stealing the scenes, and at that point, you can just sit back and enjoy the competition and chemistry among the three.
For the slightly older viewers among us, plenty of cool – which in fact rivals the cool of the younger characters’ in an understated, debonair kind of way – is to be had with the presence of Light’s father (Shea Whigham), a local cop, and Watari (Paul Nakauchi), assistant and father figure to L. And the oddly familiar demon, who is part of the bargain for those who dare write in the leather notebook, is a malevolent special-effects joy. Only as the credits roll do we truly understand the nature of the creature’s mysterious sex appeal.
Warning: don’t let anyone spoil things for you – don’t read any other reviews, and be sure to sit through the absolutely delightfully raucous rolling credits. And enjoy. This little film is likely going to make your day.