Review: ‘Nightcrawler’ Powered by Jake Gyllenhaal’s Spellbinding Performance

Jake Gyllenhaal is a versatile actor who’s traversed many genres, and that diversity continues with Nightcrawler, a perverse and prescient thriller that refuses pump the brakes from the get go.

Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is unemployed, and though his sunken cheeked visage gives him a desperate and all too hungry look, our anti-hero is far from weak. Rather, he is laser focused on landing a stable and well paying job. America is the land of opportunity, and Lou believes putting one’s best foot forward, along with an unshakable work ethic, should place him on the right path.

A highway accident during the dead of night sets Lou on his path, as he meets Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), a freelance cameraman who sells violent nighttime footage (car accidents, robberies) to local news stations in need of juicy footage.

Armed with a camera and a police scanner, along with the assistance of a hapless, well meaning drifter (Riz Ahmed), Lou speeds through the Los Angeles streets, ready to document the latest “if it bleeds, it leads” news story.

Rene Russo (The Thomas Crown Affair) gives one of her best performances as Nina Romina, a news director sees potential in Lou and eagerly buys his captured footage. Desperate to keep her job, Nina takes her news coverage to grisly and tabloid driven lengths to increase her struggling station’s ratings.

In the clip below, Rene Russo explains why she didn’t change a word of dialogue for Nina (the movie is penned and directed by Russo’s husband, Dan Gilroy)

Lou’s quick ascent as a videographer may be commendable, but the steps he takes along the way is absolutely horrifying. Whether it’s staging a crime scene, manipulating Nina to suit his own needs, or placing his assistant in harm’s way, Lou’s sociopathic tendencies lead him to a dark, morally corrupt arena.

Gilroy and cinematographer Robert Elswit create a neon tinged, seedy, yet ultimately dreamlike City of Angels, wherein animalistic urges supplant any semblance of decency. Lou is envisioned by Gilroy as a coyote who haunts the local grounds, looking to feed on the available prey. Thanks to losing 20 pounds, Gyllenhaal perfectly captures Lou’s subtle ferocity.

In the following clip, Jake Gyllenhall about an aspect of the media he learned from doing Nightcrawler:

Movie fans may see traces of Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole or Sidney Lumet’s Network in Nightcrawler, and time will tell if the movie reaches their stratospheric heights. Even with these influences, the movie entirely stands on its own, giving viewers a nightmarish look at the insatiable media and mass consumption which creates people like Lou Bloom and Nina Romina.

A thriller which mixes film noir and pulp sensibilities, Nightcrawler thankfully doesn’t revel in the sheer audacity of its narrative. Rather, we are given an even-eyed yet seductive look at a man determined to succeed in the news business. Reporting is a bloody and dirty job and someone’s got to do it. Thankfully Lou, much to the detriment of his colleagues, is more than up to the task.

NIGHTCRAWLER (Open Road Films)
Running Time: 117 minutes.
MPAA rating: R

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Paxton, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Kevin Rahm.
Director/Writer: Dan Gilroy

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