The film tells the story of Light Turner (a charismatic Nat Wolff) who finds a mysterious book one day in his high school playground and he decides to take it home. It just so happens that this magical book has the power to kill anyone whose name he writes in it. So Light begins his own little quest to rid the world of criminals. It all goes well until a famous detective starts pursuing Light and he goes simply by the letter ‘L’ (a fantastic performance from Get Out’s Lakeith Stanfield). It soon becomes a game of cat and mouse to see if Light can outsmart the detective and keep his vigilante acts under wraps.
The story is simple yet effective. There are some clever, inventive deaths – reminiscent of the Final Destination series – and it is quite gory at times. The only thing with it being 101 minutes is that it does feel very rushed towards the end and the ending is very sudden. This was a manga split into several anime films so it’s bound to feel somewhat hurried. However the majority of the content is thrilling and entertaining and there’s lots to enjoy here.
Willem Dafoe is a perfect choice for Ryuk – the mythological creature that created the book and presents himself to Light when he discovers it. Dafoe’s voice is ideal for the beast; deep, rich and raspy he embodies the role incredibly well and creates an eerie presence every time he’s in a scene. Nat Wolff gives a solid performance as Light and has a real charm to him that will see him carry many leading roles in a very bright future, as he is only a mere 23 years old now.
The real standout for me though was Laketih Stanfield’s incredibly memorable turn as detective ‘L’. Stanfield packs a real punch in the film and je is just fascinating to watch. He’s quirky, comical and sincerely amusing which brings a lighter tone to the otherwise dark story. Overall the film is amusing yet sullen at times, funny but violent and has enough going on to keep you engaged throughout.