- on Friday, 31 October 2014 16:06
- by Frank Wilkins
Jake Gyllenhaal sheds 20 pounds and packs on the “creep” as a hapless drifter resigned to selling pilfered copper and chain link fencing in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, a film that skewers the bloodthirsty world of today’s “gotta have it now” media while simultaneously creating one of the most fascinatingly complex characters in quite some time.
Gyllenhaal is Lou Bloom, a curious cross between DeNiro’s demented Travis Bickle and Psycho’s double-sided Norman Bates. He’s more than intellectually equipped but at the same time, emotionally unpredictable - the perfect combination of idiosyncrasies for his newfound career as an independent videographer who captures graphic footage of car accidents, stabbings, muggings, or whatever other “newsworthy” events any of the local L.A. TV stations might be interested in purchasing.
He learns his new trade from a wise-cracking veteran (Bill Paxton) whom he meets one night at the scene of a bloody car crash. Bloom soon discovers the gypsy lifestyle suits him well as he prowls the vacant city streets by night listening to his police scanner with cheap video camera at the ready, while meticulously editing video clips by day.
Of course, the biggest trick of the trade in this unscrupulous business is being first on scene, or the one who manages to elude attention of the annoyed police long enough to get the “money shots” which are highly desired by Nina (Rene Russo), the graveyard shift news director of a local television station with whom he forges an awkward business relationship. And if the perfect shot doesn’t present itself, Bloom is never above altering the scene to get it. He doesn’t seem to care about anything or anyone else, nor is any action off limits if it means getting the best shots of the worst of circumstances.
One crossed line leads to another and before we know it, Bloom is creating as much news as he is reporting on as he zooms through the city in a shiny new souped-up Challenger with top-notch equipment and a newly-hired assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed) as his GPS navigator and B-camera operator.
Gilroy’s script (his first) is thrilling, chilling, and even funny at times, but commits what is typically a fatal error as we’re given very little backstory to his main character who seemingly pops up out of nowhere and creeps and crouches emotionlessly through bloody crime scenes with unknown motivation. But Gyllenhaal’s performance is so captivatingly real, while at the same time so discomfortingly far-removed from common morality, we’re unable to turn away. What initially feels like a preachy morality play with plenty of bad things to say about exploitative journalism, soon becomes a fascinating character study of a modern-day sociopath. And what a mesmerizing character Gyllenhaal has created. It’ll certainly go down with the best of them.
And not to be outdone is Rene Russo who gives her best turn in years. Nina offers advice to Bloom on the value of quality equipment and how to capture the best shot, but she really grabs his attention when she urges him to think of her newscast as “a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.” They’re both hooked on what the other adds to the symbiotic relationship – Bloom needing the money, and Nina’s relevance in the dog-eat-dog world of crime journalism dependent on his graphic footage. Each gives us a scary view of the length people will go to earn a buck.
Then there’s the beautiful camera work of Robert Elswit who similarly brought after-hours L.A. to life in 2004’s Collateral. His depiction of the city in a constant yellow sodium-vapor glaze is absolutely beautiful while at the same time never masking the danger that lurks beyond the next frame.
Nightcrawler often pushes the bounds of credibility and, at times, even approaches the absurd as we know some of Bloom’s actions would land him in jail faster than his Challenger can get him to the next accident scene, but there’s no denying that Gilroy has landed a perfectly-placed punch on the hardened jaw of today’s media. The question becomes one of whether or not the media gets it or even cares.
MPAA Rating: R for violence including graphic images, and for language.
Runtime: 117 mins
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Genre: Crime | Thriller
Tagline: The City Shines Brightest at Night
Memorable Movie Quote: "If it bleeds, it leads"
Distributor: Open Road Films
Official Site: http://nightcrawlerfilm.com/
Release Date: October 31, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: February 10, 2015
Synopsis: Nightcrawler is a pulse-pounding thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. Finding a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires, murder and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the cut-throat, dangerous realm of nightcrawling -- where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents. Aided by Rene Russo as Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news, Lou thrives. In the breakneck, ceaseless search for footage, he becomes the star of his own story.
Available on Blu-ray - February 10, 2015
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; Digital copy (as download); DVD copy; BD-Live
Region Encoding: Region-free playback
No complaints here regarding the 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer, which heightens the ‘80s feel with a patina of heavy grain. The film features saturated colors, deep black levels and a high level of fine detail that all help avoid the murkiness that could have enveloped the dark atmosphere. There are no noticeable issues with digital distractions, a fact you'll appreciate during the big climax. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track offers an impressive presentation of the sound, a key element to the feel of the film. Dialogue is crisp and clear, coming mainly from the center channel, while the film's atmospheric score gets a boost from the surrounds, blanketing appropriately.
There is a feature-length audio commentary with Gilroy and his brothers John and Tony, who served as producer and editor respectively. The conversation between the three has the natural rhythm as they discuss the film's origins and financing, talk about dealing with issues that cropped up and explaining the importance of hair and clothing to a film.
Outside of the commentary, there is only one other extra: a 5-minute “Making Of” featurette. Composed of interviews with Gyllenhaal, Gilroy, Russo and Ahmed and lots of on-set footage, the most interesting part is the involvement of two actual "nightcrawlers," who served as consultants and appeared briefly in one scene.
- If it Bleeds, It Leads: Making Nightcrawler (5 min)