Director: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed, Ann Cusack, Michael Hyatt
Written by: Dan Gilroy
Running Time: 119 mins
Release date: 31st October 2014
There are some films that are hard to recommend, mainly because they are so awful that you wouldn’t wish them on your own worse enemy. There are other films that are hard to recommend, mainly because they are repugnant and morally questionable. Nightcrawler is a film that is hard to recommend not because it is bad or repugnant, although it deals with a repugnant subject matter and character, it just that it is so dark, so nasty that it’s hardly what you would call an enjoyable piece. Yet at the same time, it’s a well crafted, fascinating story that will have your skin crawling and not because it’s horrific but because it has one of the vilest characters ever to hit the screen.
Lou Bloom is a self motivated man desperate for work. However, his over-forceful personality repels most and so he has to find a way to make cash his own way. While out late at night he comes across a car crash and watches like a vulture the film crew who arrive to shot the scene and sell the footage to local Los Angeles television news. Immediately Lou Bloom can see a chance to earn some big money quickly and so, armed with a camcorder and a police scanner, he films everything from crashes to fires to drive-bys, all without morals getting in the way. His greed for success and his footage being brought by Nina, News editor of a local channel, leads him to doing anything he can to get him higher on the ladder.
Dan Gilroy’s darkly satirical thriller places you right in the heart of the underbelly of television news. The fact that there seems to be very little concern for victims or families of victims is shocking enough but the lengths people will go to get a quick buck is even more disgusting. With the feel and flavour of a 70’s thriller, this, thankfully never cops out, doesn’t guide us to a Hollywood ending in which the main character has a moment of redemption, in which he sees the errors of his ways. Lou Bloom is, without any hesitation, is one of the nastiest, most cringing creations to hit the screen in years.
Mostly filmed in the shadows of night, the atmosphere surrounding the film is grim and smells of death. Easily the night-time shots when Lou and his work colleague, Rick, a man who Lou treats like a dog, can be compared to those of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Around every corner there could be something we don’t particularly want to see but Lou thrives on, knowing that someone’s misery is dollar signs to him.
Kudos to Jake Gyllenhaal. It would have been so easy for the actor to turn the character around and give him some moral backbone but he doesn’t. Instead he as produced probably his finest character to date. A man who cares about nothing or no one except his own level of success. Speaking constantly like he has eaten a business manual, Gyllenhaal, looking incredibly gaunt that his usually large eyes look like they are ready to bulge out his head, is just skin-crawlingly evil and yet manages to add charm to an otherwise disgusting monster.
It’s also really nice to see Rene Russo back on the screen again. Playing the News hungry Nina, willing to feed Lou’s obsession for filming the unfilmable, she adds a touch of class to a rock of a woman, determined to make her station work. She is just as bad as Lou, if not worse, as she becomes caught up in world. It is proof that, even at her age, she still has it: bundles of sex appeal and screen presence. Let’s hope we see more of her in the future.
Nightcrawler is not an easy film to like but an important film. A film that doesn’t shy away from the difficult subject and from the people who are cold and emotionless, who do this job to bring us the news, if this is news in the first place. Bleak in places, nasty in others, it is a terrific film that made me feel that cinema is returning to a time when heroes were flawed and villains were cruel and that happy endings didn’t exist.