Almost all the elements that made the two "Death Note" psychothrillers special are signally absent from "L: Change the World," a lame spinoff centering on the geeky, kohl-eyed detective created by teen-heartthrob Kenichi Matsuyama.

Almost all the elements that made the two “Death Note” psychothrillers special are signally absent from “L: Change the World,” a lame spinoff centering on the geeky, kohl-eyed detective created by teen-heartthrob Kenichi Matsuyama. Thesp’s encore performance as “L” has propelled pic to a rosy $30 million locally. However, offshore chances, even on ancillary in the West, look insignificant, despite the name of director Hideo Nakata, here working way below par.

Pic is mostly set during the 23-day grace period before L’s death, triggered when he signs his own name in a Death Note book. He takes on a case involving a deadly virus (half-flu, half-ebola) that’s been developed by a group wanting to cut down the world population and establish a new global eco-system. When that virus and its antidote go missing, L turns from a candy-munching techie into a semi-action hero, with none of the clever mind games that propelled the claustrophobic “Death Note” movies. Ridiculous thriller plot, with nods to “The Andromeda Strain” and “The Satan Bug,” is full of holes and generates minimal suspense. Running time is ultra-leisurely.

L: Change the World

Japan

Production

A Warner Bros. Japan release of an L Film Partners (Nippon Television Network, Shueisha, Horipro, Yomiuri Telecasting, VAP, Shochiku, Warner Bros. Pictures Japan, Nikkatsu, STV/MMT/SDT/CTV/HTV/FBS) presentation of a Nikkatsu Studio production. Produced by Nobuhiro Iizuka, Takahiro Kobashi, Takahiro Sato, Tadashi Tanaka. Executive producer, Seiji Okuda. Co-executive producers, Katsu Kamikura, Hironao Ryoki. Directed by Hideo Nakata. Screenplay, Kiyomi Fujii, Hirotoshi Kobayashi; story, Tsugumi Oba, Takeshi Obata.

Crew

Camera (Fujicolor), Tokusho Kikumura; music, Kenji Kawai; art director, Kyoko Yauchi. Reviewed on DVD, London, March 30, 2008. (In Udine Far East Film Festival -- opener.) Japanese, English dialogue. Running time: 128 MIN.

With

Kenichi Matsuyama, Mayuko Fukuda, Sei Hiraizumi, Renji Ishibashi, Yuta Kanai, Youki Kudoh, Bokuzo Masana, Megumi Sato, Erika Toda, Asaka Seto, Shingo Tsurumi, Narushi Fukuda.
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