Writer: Casey LeeWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"The Social Network", "Collateral", "Network"The Good, the Bad and the Crawling:
If this review was not meant for a family-friendly site, the phrase it would use to describe "Nightcrawler" would have been succinctly put by the phrase it was called in its red-band trailer. If you are not inclined to search for the trailer immediately, or of an impressionable age ("Nightcrawler" is rated 18, by the way), then this review would rephrase it to something more polite. "Nightcrawler" is freaking amaze-balloons!
When night falls in Los Angeles, we see Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal); a thief and scavenger who relies on odd jobs in order to scrap a living. When Lou sells his latest loot to the manager at the scrapyard, Lou pitches himself as a hard worker, has persistence and is looking for a permanent job, even though he eloquently explains that job loyalty no longer secures one's livelihood until retirement as it once did. Failing to convince his would-be boss and given an undercut deal, Lou drives around the streets when he stumbles onto an amateur cameraman (John Paxton), filming the critical moments of a woman being pulled out of a burning wreckage by emergency rescuers. Upon learning that there is money to be made out of the business by filming raw footage of anything that fits the description of 'if it bleeds, it leads', and then selling them to the highest paying television station that needs them to fill in their morning news segments, Lou trades his old skills for a camcoder and a police scanner for a start.
If there is one review you've read before this that does not mention the revelation that is Jake Gyllenhaal, then let this review correct that understatement. After a succession of roles that tested Gyllenhaal's ability to contain the malign within the mild, Gyllenhaal has finally found the role for him to perfectly showcase that at its height. Concocting the jabbing eloquence of Eisenberg's Zuckerberg from "The Social Network", with the chilling steadiness of Cruise's Vincent in "Collateral", masked by the stoic odd mask of Carrell's Tamland from "Anchorman", Gyllenhaal has shape them into a menacing force within his gaunt frame. That last component may sound a little silly, but the silliest thing you can do is laugh when Bloom cracks his winning smile onscreen. Lou Bloom is Gyllenhaal's Hannibal Lecter.
Even so, there's not many things abhorrent about Bloom. Aside from his self-identified qualities, he is a quick-learner, has foresight and is enterprising. Ruthlessly enterprising. All the qualities of character that just needs that perfect opportunity to spark a success story that will be told was accomplished by guts, drive and being able to see a higher goal that no one else sees. All this he learns and recites from an online business course and the accessible knowledge that can be found on the Internet. That's the shining vision that Bloom wants to show us, if the pumping and dignifying tunes by James Newton Howard is an indication, but for every step that he takes up the stairs to glorious success, we are taken one step lower into depravity that already has a dark threshold when it is at the level of a cutthroat world where having the scoop before other competitors and law enforcement alike.
While it could be easy to outsell Gyllenhaal, the intensity of it all could not be done without being matched by Rene Russo as the vampiric news editor who buys off the tapes from Bloom. As her disposition towards Bloom turns from a distanced business interest into a sickening personal investment along with the increasingly gruesome images that Bloom feeds her with, Russo turns in a breaking performance that joins the remarkable ranks of the devilish older woman (Kristin Scott Thomas in "Only God Forgives" is a recent example). Bloom's terrifying transition is witnessed by a meek Riz Ahmed as Bloom's only employee (later promoted to vice president), who fits in as a suitable subordinate to anchor "Nightcrawler" with a voice of sane sensibility; a trait that is an impediment to Bloom's grand vision.
Shadowed by the back light of its brilliant cast, it is Dan Gilroy who has played the true puppet master for his directorial debut. While using fumbling camerawork may be forgivable since 'Nightcrawlers' after all are amateurs who are learning the basics of framing, but Gilroy opts to use the still and steady shots of Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit and makes the result almost heart-stopping. Just as leverage is Bloom's greatest weapon, Gilroy grinds the winch on us ever so paced that we are put into a state of sustained shock, not just from the less than expected gorey scenes, but by the audacity of his screenplay that inches over the fine line between ambition and altruism. Gilroy doesn't use "Nightcrawler" to be a preaching piece of 'oh how society is letting human tragedy becoming an engaging entertainment', but rather to put a mirror on ourselves if we would do the same as Bloom to reach our definition of success, and then smash it.
"Nightcrawler" has certainly made a very strong case for Gyllenhaal to at least earn an Oscar nomination, and if Dan Gilroy doesn't gain a worthy equivalent then this review gladly gives it the label of the best horror movie of the year. Look Out For:
Any scenes at a diner. Don't forget to breath. Trivia:
To get the gaunt look of Lou Bloom, Jake Gyllenhaal had to lost 20 pounds by working out for 8 hours a day and by running or cycling to the set. Best Watched With:
Reporters, especially those who have done the crime beat. Cinema Online, 05 November 2014