Death Note ★★

I'm starting to think Adam Wingard pulled the wool over our eyes, and his breakthrough critical hits You're Next and The Guest need some serious reassessment, because since then it's been one dud after another. First was his 'stealth' sequel to The Blair Witch Project which I still haven't mustered the enthusiasm to see. The latest is a US adaptation of the popular Japanese manga Death Note, which has already been translated into a decent anime (of what I can judge by seeing one episode so far) and a piss-poor live-action version (I switched it off after five minutes).

The usual caveats with compressing a long-running story into 90 minutes apply, but there's something especially hamfisted about this one, and it's not just the colander plot, which adds a twist of Macbeth to take the anti edge off the anti-hero. It's style over substance, for sure, but not nearly stylish enough; the lunacy of the premise requires a kind of hyper-realism that Wingard at best only hints at, when it should be plastered all over the screen in the way Takashi Miike might do it. The slapped-on synthwave soundtrack is entirely misplaced, the film not having any other substantial retro referencing, and smacks of Wingard simply not knowing any other way to do it. One can't rate the performances too poorly, though; the cast simply have little good to work with.