Director: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Kevin Rahm, Riz Ahmed, Carolyn Gilroy, Ann Cusack, Michael Hyatt
Rated: R (violence including graphic images, and for language)
When Louis Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Aiding him in his effort is Nina, a TV-news veteran.
By Cole Schneider
Jake Gyllenhaal (“Donnie Darko”, “Brokeback Mountain”, “Zodiac”) lost 30 pounds and clearly invested a lot into his role in “Nightcrawler”. It paid off. His character goes from petty thief to amateur entrepreneur to expert businessman, but really the whole film it is clear that he began his journey as an expert businessman. Throughout the thrilling, darkly comic saga there is a through-line of media satire. Although that satire can stand on its own as effective, it is secondary to larger satiric prey.
“Nightcrawler” is instead after the socioeconomic structure in which Gyllenhaal finds himself. Like all worthy character studies about a sociopath, the real study is found in his environment. Why is Travis Bickle (“Taxi Driver”) the way he is? The answer “Nightcrawler” suggests creates the first strict evaluation of commercial capitalism since last year’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”. First time writer/director Dan Gilroy successfully creates a fairly empathetic protagonist involved in horrific acts because he successfully keeps the focus of the blame on the structures around him. And when every scene is a transaction, a bargaining opportunity, it creates for some very tense and dramatic exchanges as comic counterweight.
In addition to Gyllenhaal, co-stars Rene Russo (“Ransom”), Riz Ahmed (“Four Lions”), and even Bill Paxton (“Twister”) are great as is star cinematographer Robert Elswit (“There Will Be Blood”). “Nightcrawler” isn’t wholly original, but it is wickedly effective at achieving its aim. Even with theaters full of good movies as they are right now, you’ll want to make sure to see “Nightcrawler”.
4.5 out of 5 stars
By Matt Greene
From Welles to De Niro to Hanks to Bale, Hollywood has a history of actors going through extreme body transformations. While Gyllenhaal’s intense weight loss will easily fit this trend, to only focus on that part of his commitment to Nightcrawler would be overlooking how impressively gone he is as Louis Bloom, the focus of this intense character study about an overlooked and disturbed individual. It’s not a particularly “pleasant” film, and the pacing is far from quick, but the tension between Louis and his world progresses so beautifully as to pin you right to your seat. Nightcrawler is an effectively scary, uncomfortably funny, and stylishly gritty tour de force.
The premise, plot and protagonist are truly unique: a sociopath becomes a freelance news-cameraman, stopping at nothing to succeed. Though his arc seems implausible, Gilroy crafts it smoothly, and Gyllenhaal’s disturbed perfection make it hard NOT to believe. His unsettling bug-eyed expression and breathtakingly inappropriate smile are magnetic. Much like Scorsese’s Rupert Pupkin, Bloom seems to believe he is the star of his own story: delusional, bull-headed, and respectably determined.
Luckily, there is more here than just Gyllenhaal; powerful set-pieces resound, and the beautifully cool ambient guitar score is among the best of the year, complimenting Gyllenahaal’s uneasy intensity. Even the camera consistently reminds us where Bloom stands in the deeply LA locale.
At the heart, it’s smartly calling out our propensity for praising characters for their desires, reminding us that compassionless ambition is extremely dangerous. For our fame-starved culture, Nightcrawler is a good message within a great movie with an even greater lead performance. A true don’t-miss!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars