Death Note review (Five Minutes in the Film Room transcript)

Death Note

The transcript for my Death Note review, which aired Sept. 13 on Episode 83 of The Bridge.

Here is the transcript for my review of the Netflix movie Death Note, which aired Sept. 13 on Episode 83 of The Bridge.

On Episode 83, you can also hear my good friend John Lund interview Eric Edholm, an NFL writer for Pro Football Weekly and FanRag Sports.

The Bridge is broadcast as a one-hour radio show every Wednesday night at 7 ET on Sports Radio America. After the live broadcast, the show is released as a podcast on iTunes and at lundinbridge.com on Thursday. You can listen to the live show every Wednesday on Sports Radio America here or through the TuneIn app.

What’s up everybody? I’m Joe Baress and this IS “Five Minutes in the Film Room.”

Based on the popular anime series, Death Note hit Netflix as an original movie. Director Adam Wingard was tasked with Americanizing the Japanese property. Not the first time this has been tried, and it usually doesn’t work out. Earlier this year, Ghost in the Shell, with Scarlett Johansson, tried the same thing with diminishing returns. The quality lacked, the film ultimately bored and the domestic box office suffered. Could Death Note be any different? … Let’s go to the tape.

Now, I don’t know anything about the series. I’ve never watched an episode. This review will be strictly based on the movie. I know fans of the series don’t seem to like this, but again I can’t speak to that.

That being said, right off the bat, this movie has issues. The first being the pacing. Although understandable when faced with the task of turning a series into a feature-length film, the fact still remains that the movie moves way too fast. Although sometimes I enjoy when a film jumps right into the action, some call for it. Some don’t. For instance, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk shows us war and doesn’t develop characters. It instead gives us a quick text scroll to let us know where the war is at when the film begins. Hence, when the first gunshot goes off in the first few minutes, we are not missing anything.

For those unfamiliar with the source material, things need to be hashed out. When the Death Note drops from the sky about a minute into the film and then 10 minutes later Light Turner is killing people at a rapid rate, you’re left looking for a timeout and an opportunity to regroup after the opposing team went on a 15-0 run.

Now, if you have not seen this movie or don’t know anything about the series, did that make much sense? Are you asking yourself questions? You should be, because there’s a lot we need to learn about our main character to start.

Our hero, or anti-hero in this case, is Light Turner, played by Nat Wolff. A notebook falls from the sky and Turner picks it up. This book has the ability to kill people as long as the person who writes in it knows the name and is picturing the face of the person he or she would like to kill in his or her mind. He or she can also say how he or she wants the victim to die as well as influence the victim’s actions for two days until he or she finally dies. And trust me. Those were just a few. The rules are endless.

So as I said the killing starts rapidly. Although he kills for good, Light is somehow OK with killing hundreds of people without so much as blinking an eye. He’s also apparently very smart. While he is shown doing other students’ quizzes early in the film, Light doesn’t really act intelligently. I don’t believe in his supposedly high IQ.

It’s not just the pacing. It has something to do with the performance of Wolff, but I don’t blame him because I’ve seen him excel in other movies. I blame the direction. I realize that Light is an anti-hero, but anti-heroes should have something about them that makes you like their characters. I do not find Light likable, and I just don’t buy into his character.

Also, the end is completely convoluted. So this movie is a mess, on the level of strong filmmaking. But what kind of movie were they looking to make here? I don’t think it was as highbrow as the series intends to be. I think Wingard intended to make a quick-hitting film for your entertainment. And in that regard the film succeeds. It has some Final Destination type kills, a fun performance we’ve come to expect from the voice of Willem Dafoe and a touch of teen drama that’ll make you wish they took the cast of Riverdale and threw them into the leading roles. So I had a good time.

One thing I really enjoyed with Death Note was the performance of Lakeith Stanfield who plays L, the greatest detective in the world who protects his true identity. From his voice to his mannerisms, Stanfield commands the scene every time he’s on screen. I like the character design, the movie kicks into gear when he is introduced and the most engaging scenes involve him. Again, his character could have been handled better with more time to develop. I love the way his emotion teeters throughout the film, but why is he so emotional when he is shown as stoic in the beginning of the film? What is his relationship with his right-hand man? Why does he constantly have candy with him? Why does he not sleep for long stretches? What makes him a great detective? I don’t think all of these questions need to be answered, but the fact that none of them were answered is a bit alarming.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Death Note has problems that will annoy those devoted to the anime series, including pacing and the way Light Turner was handled. But to those who have not seen the series or step back and look at Death Note as a standalone film, there’s fun to be had. Lakeith Stanfield and Willem Dafoe give strong performances, and everything else while not great by any stretch is by no means horrible. You can watch it, enjoy it and not feel bad about it, no matter how much fans of the series try to make that happen.

I’ll rank Death Note as Johnny Manziel. He was never going to pan out as a viable starting quarterback in the NFL and had off-field issues. But when the 6-footer ran for his life in the backfield to find time to deliver a sensational touchdown pass, you can’t help but be entertained.

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About dukemich

Samuel L. Jackson
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