‘Nightcrawler’ (2014) Movie Review

By: Mitch Burns

Photo Courtesy of Open Road Films
Photo Courtesy of Open Road Films

Directed By: Dan Gilroy

Starring:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed, and Michael Hyatt

Grade: A-

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a man out of work, so driven to succeed he has taken to stealing from construction sites and selling the materials back to the foremen. When he sees an ameteur news crew, led by Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) filming the wreckage of a car collision, he realizes the money making potential. Lou quickly sells some (stolen) items at a pawn shop, buys a camera and a police scanner and is out on the streets of Los Angeles nightly, looking for stories to film. Lou meets Nina Romina (Rene Russo), News Director of a local Los Angeles news station, who he starts selling his recordings too. Nina sees something in Bloom, and his videos, she gives him advice, and tells him to bring all of his stuff to her. She leaves him with this wise, but albeit creepy, advice “Think of our newscast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.

Lou “hires” an employee, Rick (Riz Ahmed), who is paid only thirty dollars a night to ride with Lou, listen to the police scanner and map out the quickest routes to the action as possible. Normally, I would say that a job consumes someone, but in this case, Lou consumes the job. Lou will stop at nothing to get the perfect shot; Driving well over the speed limit, invading the personal space of life saving paramedics & cops, and even moving the dead body of a crash victim, are all within the realm of possibilty.

Louis Bloom is a character I will never forget, he is driven towards success, and will do anything to get there. This drive make Lou come across as somewhat of a sociopath. In interviews, Gyllenhaal is quick to say he doesn’t believe Lou is a sociopath, because of his likeability and innocence. I would certaintly agree that you find yourself rooting for Lou at times when you really ought not to be, but I can’t help but firmly believe that Louis Bloom is a sociopath.

Nightcrawler is wonderully dark and gritty, the Los Angeles nightlife is spectacularly brought to life by cinematographer Robert Elswit. Elswit was a perfect choice, having been the cinematographer on most of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, and other films such as Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck.

Surprisingly, This is Dan Gilroy’s first time directing, and he also wrote Nightcrawler. Here he has written and directed a movie that is very brazen, dark, but with flashes of humor, and hugely satirical of today’s 24 hour news cycle; I can’t wait to see what Gilroy does next. Gilroy couldn’t have asked for a better release date, with the social commentary happening right now on news programs and their scare tactics with the Ebola virus, you can’t help but draw comparisons.

There are really only 5 main acting performances in Nightcrawler, the film has a restricted narrative, as we stay with Lou Bloom the whole movie, but the five performances are great. Jake Gyllenhaal lost 30 pounds for the role, he delved into the role completely, even cutting his hand so badly he needed stitches. Gyllenhaal had his work cut out for him, this was a huge task to take on, but I think he is, and will be rewarded for it. His great work in the painfully overlooked 2013 film Prisoners, was probably too subtle for the Academy to notice, but they’ll have a hard time letting Louis Bloom go unnoticed.

Rene Russo, who plays Nina and is the real-life wife of Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy, was a highly effective choice to play the role. The decision to have this role taken by an experienced, more mature actor, was perfect. Russo knows exactly what she’s doing in the role, and pulls it off with great success. Riz Ahmed plays Rick, who is a down on his luck, he is jobless and homeless, and in almost the same situation we find Lou Bloom at the beginning of the story. Rick is our moral compass, Unlike Louis, Rick seems to know right from wrong, but he needs the (little) money Lou is offering him. Riz Ahmed, who I know from nothing, is a great addition to the cast, and not the typical wisecracking sidekick you would expect. Bill Paxton and Michael Hyatt round out the cast, in two small but well delivered roles.

I could have easily seen Nightcrawler getting an A or A+ from me, but a few things kept me from those two grades, among them are the moments in the movie that push my believability of the story. The camera, and subsequently, Lou himself, periodically go to far. You watch in utmost horror, as Lou pushes his camera into situations you’re quite certain a sociopath wouldn’t dare. I also found the ending, the last 15-20 minutes, to “Jump the Shark” in a way. The ending feels to be a little much, it’s more like something you’d see in an action film, that doesn’t mean it’s not a great scene, it just felt like it almost belonged in another movie altogether.

Nightcrawler is awesome, I can easily see myself rewatching once it’s available on Blu-Ray. Dan Gilroy’s name is forever in my brain as one to watch, Rene Russo is back and it’s great, and I expect to see Jake Gyllenhaal’s name among next years Oscar nominees.

Thank you for reading,

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