Movie Review: Nightcrawler

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A thief gets into the LA crime journalism business.

starsfourpointfive

Dan Gilroy, 2014

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) wants a job. He trawls Los Angeles at night, stealing wire and manhole covers to sell and trying to get an in at a job. One night he comes across a car crash where he meets Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), a cameraman who films violent scenes to sell to news agencies. Lou catches the bug, and, after raising some shady money to buy a camera, he starts his own filming. After stumbling at first, he gets upfront and personal with a dying gunshot victim and sells the footage to morning news producer Nina Romina (Rene Russo). He hires a down-on-his-luck “employee”, Rick (Riz Ahmed), and uses his particular mix of business acumen and lack of empathy to rise through the ranks of night journalists, his methods becoming more and more questionable.

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Jake Gyllenhaal puts in a career-defining performance in this disturbing character study. Lou Bloom is a meaty role (even if Gyllenhaal is skinny as hell in it, all straining tendons and deep eye sockets), and it’s made people finally sit up and take notice of his abilities. Lou is an awkward modern monster in a modern workforce, self-motivated to a horrific extent. The positive-minded business jargon that Lou spouts is disturbingly banal, and his constant negotiation of even the most basic human interactions tells of his lack of empathy. From the opening scene, there’s always a hint of the darkness lurking just under the surface, but every time it comes out it burns like a kettle letting off steam. The supporting cast is strong too: Rene Russo’s TV producer is probably her best role in years; Riz Ahmed is jittery and believable; Bill Paxton is turning into a quality character actor, strong this year as this film’s sleazy cameraman and Edge of Tomorrow’s Southern sergeant.

The film is sleekly shot. There’s been a trend this year of rain-soaked Noir-style night vistas, neon lights reflected on black tarmac, that’s continued Nightcrawler. The score by James Newton Howard is terrific, echoing Lou’s state of mind. The movie is very well crafted, a slow burn (sometimes a little too slow) building to a finale that feels earned and terrifying. A few moments are a little on the nose compared to the film’s earlier realism. The focus on sensationalistic “news” and the damage it causes is thought-provoking, the film answering the question of who would do that kind of work and why. Ultimately, though, the film belongs to Jake Gyllenhaal; his hunched walk and wide-eyed ingratiation hide a nasty soul. This movie is not an easy watch, but it is an engaging one.

Nightcrawler on IMDb

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