Movie Review: Death Note (DVD)

Of all the locations in the world, I have always enjoyed movies from Asia the most.  If you are willing to look there are great foreing films from every part of the world, but Japan, South Korea and China have some of my favorites.  Something about over the top gore from a film like Ichi The Killer or the twisted plot of Oldboy just entertains me to no end.  These are films that would never be made in America and that’s probably for the better as an American studio might get in the way of what should be happening.

My latest dip into Asian film comes in the form of Death Note.  This is a film based on a very popular manga from Japan.  The story follows Light (or Kira), a college student living with his parents who just happens to come across a note book with some pretty amazing powers.  Light is the type of person who gets upset with all of the many injustices of the world.  Criminals set free because of spotty evidence or random loopholes within the law.  Apparently the God of Death is on his side because one night on his walk home, Light just happens to come across the Death Note.

The Death Note is a notebook that has the power to kill anyone who’s name is written in the book.  All you need is the full name and you need to think of the image of their face while writing the name.  You can also pick how they will die, but if left blank they will die of a heart attack.  The beginning of the movie gets right into the killing as criminals are dying left and right, all of mysterious heart attacks.  Eventually the police are on to the fact that this is not a random occurrence, someone is perpetuating the crime. 

If that all sounds kind of cheesy (andI understand how it could) it actually makes for a pretty interesting movie.  While there are many flaws the story is good enough to overcome and make this very enjoyable.  The flaws are pretty major, all things considered.  The acting is questionable at times, the death scenes are so bad they are laughable and this movie has the worst digitally created character since Jar Jar in the form of Ryuk, the God of Death.  He looks so out of place and is so obviously a CG set piece that it’s distracting.

If you are able to get past that you should find yourself liking this.  Once the police have figured out that this is the act of man, not God, a mysterious detective is brought in.  The detective goes only by L and is unseen for the majority of the film.  As the investigation gets deeper and deeper we do get to meet L face to face and its somewhat of a shocker.  L is right around the same age as Light, so this means we have 2 20-somethings fighting it out over a massive amount of life lost.  The movie really plays on the cat and mouse game between the 2 and there are lots of clever traps and cons that make the film move pretty quickly.

Once you get into all of the back and forth between L and Light, the movie somewhat abrublty stops.  I guess its not so much of an abrupt stop as it is a “Stop, we have a sequel coming”.  The film ends without a lot of questions being answered and no real result of the cat and mouse game being played.  Thankfully there is a sequel which just released onto DVD this week.  I plan to get it from Netflix and see if it can take the story in a good direction and offer a more satisfying solution.   If you like crime thrillers this really isn’t a bad flick to check out.  It essentially is the battle of 2 teenagers for right and wrong.  While that might sound terrible it’s handled well enough that I would easily recommend it.  Now lets just hope that the 2nd installment can give me a closing.

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