Movie Review: Nightcrawler

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When Lou 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. IMDb

The film’s writer, and first-time director, Dan Gilroy has infused a morbidly exciting and dark tone to this wild tour of media sensationalism. Nightcrawler takes a chilling look at how we consume media – our society’s constant need for the big story, not the right story.

Nina: “We find our viewers are more interested in urban crime creeping into the suburbs. What that means is a victim, or victims, preferably well off and white, injured at the hands of the poor or minority.”
Lou Bloom: “Just crime?”
Nina: “No, accidents play, cars, buses, trains, planes, fires”
Lou Bloom: “But bloody”
Nina: “Well, graphic, the best and clearest way that I can phrase it to you, Lou, to capture the spirit of what we air is think of our newscast as a screaming woman, running down the street with her throat cut.”
Lou Bloom: “I understand.”

Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely brilliant as he ventures into new territory, playing a gaunt, jittery and wild-eyed Lou Bloom. He channels a creepy, socially awkward yet strikingly self-assured sociopath with an effective zeal. Lou Bloom pedals his gruesome footage and twisted rhetoric of sales pitches and catchphrases with absolute conviction. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so unnerving. Watch out awards season, here comes Jake Gyllenhaal.

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Lou Bloom and his breed of “nightcrawlers” circle their prey and swoop in like vultures. Anything for the perfect shot – the more gruesome, the more money it will make. As Lou’s business ambitions grow, his drive becomes all consuming. Lou abandons what little ethics he had in a bid to make his name. The audience sways between rooting for the bad guy, and dreading what he will do next.

The supporting cast effectively fills around Gyllenhaal’s sleazy performance. Rene Russo is in good form as TV news director Nina, who also serves as Lou Bloom’s enabler in his quest for gruesome footage. Bill Paxton plays a smarmy rival nightcrawler as only Bill Paxton can. Riz Ahmed plays Rick, Bloom’s unwitting and naïve employee – one of the few characters exuding actual humanity in a film filled with voyeuristic nightmares.

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The atmosphere of the film, with its “noir” downtown L.A. setting and neon lights creates a heightened reality. The social critique in this film is not missed, nor is it subtle. The news that we consume is painted as shallow and opportunistic – which may very well be true. To our desensitized TMZ-era, the image, the crime and the politics of media are frighteningly real.

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Nightcrawler is a sharp and effective thriller that traces a predictable trajectory (drawing comparisons to influences such as “Network”).  It’s a violent and wicked satire on journalism and the public’s appetite for bad news. The film points a mirror of accountability not only at media outlets, but also at our media-hungry culture – viewer discretion may be advised.

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One thought on “Movie Review: Nightcrawler

  1. Gyllenhaal has been a pretty great actor for a long while, but here, he really soars and shows us just what he can do, whenever he has total free-reign to do whatever he oh so pleases. Good review.

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