Review – Nightcrawler

There is an idea of Louis Bloom; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real Louis Bloom – only an entity, something illusory. And though he can hide his cold gaze… he is simply not there.

A remarkably assured debut from Gilroy featuring a tour de force performance by Gyllenhaal, the wickedly disturbing Nightcrawler will crawl under your skin and stay there

A remarkably assured debut from Gilroy featuring a tour de force performance by Gyllenhaal, the wickedly disturbing Nightcrawler will crawl under your skin and stay there

I’m sure American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman wouldn’t mind being paraphrased to describe someone whom he would no doubt approve of.

Louis is a go-getter in the truest sense of the word; a guy chasing his share of the American Dream who also happens to be a sociopath and a monster made flesh by our insatiable appetite for blood-soaked true crime.

Screenwriter Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut turns over the bright and shiny rock of TV news to reveal the desperate putrescence beneath. It may not be particularly earth-shattering to lay bare the grisly cynicism that constitutes the US media machine – Sidney Lumet’s peerless Network did that almost 40 years ago – but Nightcrawler succeeds by wallowing in the muck with the leeches who feed the ‘if if bleeds, it leads’ TV news culture, in particular new kid of the block Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) goes for his major scoop in Nightcrawler

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) goes for his major scoop in Nightcrawler

When we first encounter Lou, he’s being caught stealing metal fencing by a security guard, whom he beats up. Even at this early juncture, it’s plainly obvious that something isn’t right with the guy and our unease is heightened further when he attempts to fence the fencing to a scrap yard owner and angles for a job at the same time; all the while quoting self-help book rhetoric and fixing the person in front of him with a rictus grin his saucer eyes fail to match.

It’s an affectation we discover he puts on for everyone and when he stumbles across Joe Loder’s (Bill Paxton) freelance film crew shooting footage of a car crash in order to sell it to the Los Angeles news networks, the missing link falls into place for Lou, who buys a camera and dives headlong into the venal world of ‘nightcrawling’.

The city of nightmares... Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) and cable TV news director Nina (Rene Russo) in Nightcrawler

The city of nightmares… Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) and cable TV news director Nina (Rene Russo) in Nightcrawler

With the assistance of intern Rick (Riz Ahmed), a down-and-out looking for a break, who goes along for the ride for a measly few dollars despite knowing his employer is a few slices short of a loaf, he hurtles around the city and sells on his grisly footage to vampire shift news director Nina (Rene Russo) with a self-assured expectation rarely seen since The King Of Comedy’s Rupert Pupkin that he will become a major TV news player.

Bravely, Gilroy eschews backstory for his unhinged protagonist and hands it over to the audience to mull over how Lou arrives where he does. He comes across as almost as blank a slate as Scarlett Johansson’s extraterrestrial visitor from Under The Skin and certainly has the same singular drive, while his mesmeric bug-eyed stare (made more striking by Gyllenhaal’s weight loss for the part) brings to mind the description of many a little green man.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) shows 'intern' Rick (Riz Ahmed) the ropes in Nightcrawler

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) shows ‘intern’ Rick (Riz Ahmed) the ropes in Nightcrawler

It’s great to see Russo back on the big screen in a part deserving of her talents and it’s fascinating watching her character reduce from alpha dominance (her description of TV news as “a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut” being a case in point) to Lou’s lap dog as she relies more heavily on his macabre footage and falls under his spell.

Likewise, Ahmed in his breakout US role following a series of very strong roles in such British fare as Chris Morris’ Four Lions, is the only emphathetic character on screen (save for Kevin Rahm’s aghast news editor) and becomes trapped by Lou, who cruelly dangles the prospect of a pay raise based on a non-existent “performance review”.

The man who wasn't there... bug eyed Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Nightcrawler

The man who wasn’t there… bug-eyed Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Nightcrawler

Needless to say, though, this is Gyllenhaal’s movie and he really goes for it, giving a career best turn in the process. Gyllenhaal has generally been at his best when playing misfits or obsessive types in such films as Donnie Darko (2001), Zodiac (2007) and last year’s Prisoners and amps it up here to a previously untapped level. Lou is a truly unrepentant figure and is as mesmerising as he is appalling.

Less successful is James Newton Howard’s fist-pumping score, which is presumably meant as the soundtrack that Lou has swirling around his head as he goes about his nightly activities (akin to Taxi Driver); however, it doesn’t really come off and ends up becoming distracting. A gripe, albeit a small one.

A remarkably assured debut from Gilroy featuring a tour de force performance by Gyllenhaal, the wickedly disturbing Nightcrawler will crawl under your skin and stay there.

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38 comments

  1. CinemaClown · November 18, 2014

    One of the best films of the year featuring one of the finest performances that’s certainly Gyllenhaal’s best so far! Excellent review, Tom.

    • Tom · November 18, 2014

      Hahah!!! That’s an awesome typo there. But I’ll gladly take credit here for Mark’s excellent review!!! 😉

      • CinemaClown · November 19, 2014

        There isn’t anyway to even edit my previous comment 😐 …And stay out, Tom… I meant Mark when I wrote that & Mark knows it too 😛

      • Three Rows Back · November 19, 2014

        Too kind Tom!! And thank you mate; I don’t mind being called Tom – there are worse things!

  2. le0pard13 · November 18, 2014

    I wholeheartedly agree! Well done, Tom.

  3. Chris · November 18, 2014

    Nice review. Gyllenhaal was terrific here in what sadly may well go ignored come awards season. Wasn’t aware this was a director debut, however. Impress stuff in that case!

    • Three Rows Back · November 19, 2014

      Appreciate that Chris. I don’t know, I think Gyllenhaal may get a nod here or there. His turn certainly deserves it.

  4. Joseph@thecinemamonster · November 18, 2014

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, my friend :), excellent stuff! One thing I love about this flick is although it evokes a few chuckles, the laughing is mostly rooted in fear…Louis Bloom is bloody terrifying.

    • Three Rows Back · November 19, 2014

      Ah, thanks mate. Your comments are always appreciated. Yeah, the comedy is of the dark kind that’s for sure.

  5. Mark Walker · November 18, 2014

    Great work sir! I’m really itching to see this. It’s shot right to the top of my ‘to see list’ and all in hearing is praise. I have high hopes indeed.

    • Three Rows Back · November 19, 2014

      Hey Mark, thanks for reading man. Give it a viewing sooner rather than later mate; I’m sure you’d enjoy it.

  6. Tom · November 18, 2014

    Wasn’t this movie impressive man???

    I mean, Gyllenhaal has NEVER been this slimy before, and he has played some right creepazoids in his previous films! Man, give this guy the Oscar already. Great work buddy, as per usual!!!

    • Three Rows Back · November 19, 2014

      He needs to play slimeball in every goddamned movie he’s in! I hope he gets nominations; he certainly deserves it mate.

  7. The Vern · November 18, 2014

    Putting this character in the same league as Patrick Bateman and the alien chick from Under The Skin has me interested in seeing this more. I also like how you compare this to Network as well. Awesome review

    • Three Rows Back · November 19, 2014

      Hey brother, tnaks for the positive words. It’s not Network class but it’s a great flick.

  8. CMrok93 · November 19, 2014

    Good review. A very creepy movie, which is mostly thanks to Gyllenhaal’s great performance.

  9. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop · November 19, 2014

    Totally bonkers film but I loved it, and how fantastic was Gyllenhaal?! Really impressive. I thought the fact that the police just let him go without question was a little daft but still thought it was superb.

    • Three Rows Back · November 19, 2014

      Gylenhaal was something else wasn’t he? Best I’ve ever seen him. That plot point you point out wasn’t missed, but I was willing to let it go 🙂

  10. Zoë · November 19, 2014

    ARGH!!!!! Another stellar review on this and we still don’t have it 😦 I am so looking forward to it!

  11. theipc · November 19, 2014

    Great post! Should I call you Tom too??

  12. ruth · November 20, 2014

    Great review Mark! I’m so up for seeing this after seeing the trailer and now the stellar reviews made me even more curious. Jake G. looks sick in this film which surely works for making him so convincing in the role. Yes it’s great to see Russo back on the big screen, I really like her but she kinda disappeared for a while. I also like Riz Ahmed from The Reluctant Fundamentalist, hope he continues to get good roles in Hollywood.

  13. sati · November 22, 2014

    I’m seeing this tonight and i just cannot wait, but that’s disappointing to read about the score, I hope I’ll still like it Howard is such a talented composer.

    • Three Rows Back · November 22, 2014

      I’ll be interested in your views. As I mentioned in my review, I can see what the thinking was behind the soundtrack, but it didn’t really work.

  14. Paskalis Damar AK · November 27, 2014

    I just watched it last night. It’s the sleaziest performance Gyllenhaal ever done! And I love it!
    Great review, anyway!

  15. Lights Camera Reaction · November 27, 2014

    Lovely review! Solid film although I think my expectations were a little too high. That shot of gyllenhaal when that guy was being carried into the ambulance was horrifying! Can you imagine what he was like as a child? I was really interested how he stirred the conversation away from where he grew up during that dinner scene.

    • Three Rows Back · November 27, 2014

      Ah, thanks. I was wondering about Lou’s backstory as I was watching the film, which shows how much I was invested in the character and the movie.

  16. Dan · November 27, 2014

    Everyone is talking about the Mcconaissance but Gyllenhaal is also having a really good time of it lately. These past few years have seen him deliver some truly astonishing performances. End of Watch a couple of years ago, then Enemy and now this.

    • Three Rows Back · November 27, 2014

      Not seen Enemy yet but am looking forward to it. I’ve always liked Gyllenhaal. He’s given some hokey performances in the past but you’re right; he’s been really good in the last couple of years.

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  18. Stu · November 28, 2014

    Damn I thought I commented on this one already! I guess not. Enjoyed reading, Mark, and loved the film – one of my favourites of the year without doubt. Gyllenhaal is superb and if he doesn’t get an Oscar for this I’ll have an almighty paddy.

    • Three Rows Back · December 2, 2014

      Thanks Stu. He’s a sure fire contender definitely. It’s a fantastic performance.

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