Death Note II: The Last Name (VIZ Pictures, NR)

deathnote2-header.jpgKenichi Matsuyama’s performance in particular is one for the books. He takes what could have been a very flat character and imbues him with so much substance and style, that you’ll miss him when he’s not onscreen.

 

 

Put yourself in this position: a book falls out of the sky that gives you the power to end someone’s life, simply by writing their name in it. You would have the ability to be judge, jury and executioner, killing criminals who somehow slipped through the cracks of the justice system, and to single handedly change the very shape of society. What would be next though? As easy as it is to do, surely the temptation to start killing those who disagree with your methods would present itself. Where would it end?

These are the questions presented by the Death Note films, based on the popular manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata.  The books have spun out into the wildly successful movies from director Shusuke Kaneko, best known for his "Gamera" series of creature features.  Death Note II: The Last Name is the conclusion to the Death Note saga, and will be presented in a special two-night screening at theatres nationwide on October 15th and 16th

A promotional poster for Death Note II. Click for a larger image.In the first Death Note, a brilliant student by the name of Light (Tatsuya Fujiwara) finds the Death Note book and is quickly seduced by its power, developing a slightly unhealthy god-complex along the way.  Under the moniker of ‘Kira’, he begins to use the book to implement the kind of justice he wishes his police chief father could achieve. With each successive kill, he gets closer to his utopian vision for how he can make the world safer, laws be damned.  The police are stumped, and decide to bring in master detective L (Ken’ichi Matsuyama), a ball of quirky deduction with a penchant for sweets. 

When the first film ended, Light asks to join the investigation with L, who suspects Light and the infamous Kira are one in the same. What follows in Death Note II is completely unexpected, and truly keeps the viewer guessing about which winding turn the story will take. 

When a premise as simple as this is coupled with the amount of characters and sub-plots that Death Note II has, the narrative could easily derail into an incoherent mess of missed opportunities. Thankfully, Keneko’s solid direction and some truly talented actors keep the train on the tracks. Kenichi Matsuyama’s performance in particular is one for the books. He takes what could have been a very flat character and imbues him with so much substance and style, that you’ll miss him when he’s not onscreen. Also turning in good performances are the aforementioned Tatsuya Fujiwara, and his father, played by Takeshi Kaga, best known to American audiences as the flamboyant host of TV’s Iron Chef.

Cinematographer Kenji Takama keeps the focus on the characters and does not allow camera tricks to distract from the subtle action that unfolds from Tetsuya Oishi’s wonderful script. The special effects are also quite subtle, allowing the characters’ moral struggles and questionable intents to take center stage.

If you’ve never read the manga, or if you’re already a big fan, you owe yourself a trip to a theatre near you on October 15th or 16th to check out Death Note II: The Last Name. | Jim Ousley

 

Official Site: deathnotefilms.com

 

Death Note II: The Last Name is screening in the St. Louis metro area at the AMC Esquire 7, the St. Louis Mills 18, the AMC Chesterfield 14, and the Edwardsville Showplace. For screening information, directions, and to purchase tickets, visit fathomevents.com.

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