Movie Review: Nightcrawler
Director: Dan Gilroy
Reviewed: 24 November 2014
Yeah, two and a half stars seems right. Kudos to Jake Gyllenhaal for his supremely creepy and committed performance as Lou Bloom, the eponymous main character, a creature of the internet and worshipper of television news who finds himself drawn to police scanners and video taping gruesome scenes and selling them to the media. And, Robert Elswit's cinematography is remarkable and brilliant; the opening series of shots could be studied by itself in a film class as an examination of modernity and the eternal.
Lou Bloom is a robotic spouter of adages, positivity and business acumen. Yet, something is off. He hunts down job opportunities until he stumbles across a guy with a camera filming an accident and selling the footage to a television station. He realizes that this is his true calling. Gyllenhaal's delivery makes Lou seem slightly alien and off-kilter, all the while observing and locating exactly what he needs to do to get ahead in his business. The idea of nightcrawlers is one that I was unaware of and found to be fascinating, though I never fully understood the legality of the act of filming without permission or the network's ability to play potentially upsetting and illegal footage. Nina (Rene Russo), a local television producer, becomes involved in the playing of said footage, finding herself increasingly addicted to the rush and ratings that Lou is responsible for delivering.
Nightcrawler is unique and has intense moments. However, I do not think director Dan Gilroy was up to the task. At times, he seems to want to make a Network level satire of rapacious news media salivating for the latest fix. At other times, he wants to make Lou Bloom a Travis Bickle type, marauding and stalking the streets with his own interior monologue of dementedness. And then there are moments of humor where it seems to be attempting to mock the business world and American Dream by spinning it on its head. All in all, the film presents an upsetting look at a dark character, but its lack of any sort of explanation or back story for Lou feels uninformed instead of mysterious. There are homages to The Usual Suspects and an ending with a profound sense of darkness, yet too much of the movie is spent with Lou and his partner Rick (Riz Ahmed) in a bizarre sort of back and forth. There is no conflict within Lou about the morality of what he does, and that sense of drift invades the film, making it a string of outlandish and perverse moments with some very gruesome images. There is much to think about here, and Gyllenhaal shines despite the script and the director.