MOVIE REVIEW | Nightcrawler (2014)


“Who am I? I’m a hard worker. I set high goals and I’ve been told that I’m persistent.”

Every few years, some variety of low budget, B-grade, genre fare sneaks through the pretensions of critics, gets around mainstream audiences’ demand for high budget, easily digestible booms, and refuses to be ignored. They’re generally a combination of sensationalist stories and impeccable performances from A-listers taking a pay cut in the indie world. And because they’re lower budget, they usually have gradual releases, playing at a film festival here, released on VOD there. Which means a slow burn. Which means an endless trickle of rave reviews that get harder and harder to ignore. A few years ago it was the crazily overrated Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and his satin jacket. In 2014, it was the much more effective Jake Gyllenhaal in the much effective Nightcrawler.

Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a petty thief, making ends meet by stealing scrap metal and mugging the occasional security guard. But he sees himself as a go getting hard worker. One night, he stumbles across a car accident and witnesses Bill Paxton’s Joe filming graphic footage that later ends up on the morning news. Seeing a job opportunity, Lou buys a police scanner, a camcorder and employs Rick (Riz Ahmed) as his navigator and general whipping boy. Soon, they’re cruising the nocturnal streets of Los Angeles, looking for car accidents, murders, home invasions and other general horror to film and sell to local TV news producer, Nina (Rene Russo).

Lou’s over eager, over polite, over accommodating schtick exposes him as a slimy fake, and maybe even a sociopath in the opening minutes of the movie And the deeper he gets into the world of nightcrawling (chasing these gruesome news stories), the more his lack of empathy makes him increasingly suited to the job. It’s also clear that it’s only a matter of time until he takes things too far. The question isn’t will his actions end up hurting someone. The question, who will his actions inevitably hurt.

A first time director, Dan Gilroy has a few screenplays to his name. The only one I’ve seen is The Bourne Legacy. And the only other one I’ve even heard of is Real Steel. But that combination of a spy thriller, a robot fighting movie, and now Nightcrawler, makes me think he’s a bit of a genre fan. He seems to like his stories set in big, cartoonish worlds. Even here, amidst the grittiness of present day LA, he still dives into a world that I assume very few viewers would ever recognise. And I like that. I like that this is a world that is completely realistic and plausible, while also bizarre and foreign at the same time.

In my intro, I was pretty dismissive of Drive, and while I could see a lot of comparisons between it and Nightcrawler, there’s something about the latter that just makes it seem much more necessary. Drive was pure flash, all style, no substance. And that’s not in itself a bad thing. But it just seemed so impressed with itself and its narcissistic swagger. Nightcrawler has a message, but never lets that message get in the way of its perfectly off putting layer of B-grade, genre grime.

Directed By – Dan Gilroy
Written By – Dan Gilroy

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