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Nightcrawler Review: Jake Gyllenhaal Portrays A Very Creepy “Crawler”

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Misery loves company; it’s obvious when you see rubbernecking drivers and pedestrians at the sites of fires, car accidents, or any public scene of chaos for that matter. If you aren’t able to witness one in person, that’s okay because there’s always the news.

If one thing is certain, the news always leads with a story that burns or bleeds.

Lou Bloom is a man looking for a break, and hard times have turned him into a scavenger and a thief in Nightcrawler. Lou doesn’t know it yet, but one night on his drive home he will get a glimpse of what his future holds.

He happens upon the scene of an accident where police desperately struggle to rescue a woman trapped in her burning car.

As Lou is watching the events unfold a cameraman arrives and begins record footage of the ordeal. He discovers that the man behind the camera is a veteran freelance “video journalist” or “nightcrawler” named Joe Loder, whose mercenary purpose assures that the highest bidding station will get HIS footage.

Bloom becomes keenly interested and gravitates towards it as a new vocation. Equipped with a used camcorder and police scanner he rushes headlong onto the nighttime streets of Los Angeles in his crappy Toyota, looking for newsworthy occurrences.

The “nightcrawler” community doesn’t exactly welcome Bloom with open arms, and he experiences some stumbling blocks initially.

His persistence and tenacity eventually pays off when he gets his foot firmly in the door by capturing prime footage of the bloody aftermath of a carjacking. The station already has footage from the scene, but his has a decidedly better angle and vantage point. Nina, the station’s “graveyard” news director, and Lou strike up a beneficial and somewhat exclusive bushiness relationship based on a level of mutual desperation.

Lou starts consistently providing footage that nets more viewers for the morning news and bigger paydays for him, at which point he hires an intern/navigator/second cameraman named Rick.

Soon, his success as a freelancer allows him to upgrade to newer cameras and a “Torred” Dodge Challenger decked out with state-of-the-art GPS enabled police scanners. It also gets the attention of Joe Loder, who then tries to eliminate him as competition by offering him a partnership. Bloom declines seeing it as the act of a desperate competitor.

Bloom begins to lose his edge to Loder, who has expanded his operation and his ability to arrive quickly at multiple scenes. Bloom sends Loder a “message” that shows just how far he’ll go to remain ahead of the game. One night Bloom beats the police to the scene of a murder and has free reign to record footage of the scene. This is his masterpiece and the footage he provides may put him on the right side with the producers, but it’s the footage he doesn’t share that puts him on the wrong side of the law.

Where do I even start with Jake Gyllenhaal’s brilliant portrayal?

He nearly disappears into the character of Lou Bloom. Gyllenhaal’s a creepy and emaciated visage of his former self, losing roughly 30 lbs. for the role. He’s almost a hybrid of Crispin Glover and Peter Lorre. His demeanor is eerily calm, awkward, and sometimes uncomfortable to watch. Even when he’s angry or upset he tends to keep it low-key. Is he psychopathic, misanthropic,  a sociopath, or a megalomaniac? YES!

He shows no semblance of a conscience and isn’t emotionally affected by…well, anything. Every grin, sideways smile, or sickening chuckle is reason to cringe and make ones skin crawl. There’s an overwhelming tendency for him to talk in a mix of self help and business management related jargon and it makes him come across as officious.

Nobody he comes across can escape his attempts at some form of manipulation.

Aside from money and recognition, Bloom only seems to care for a plant he repeatedly waters throughout the film. Is it too early for the words Oscar nomination? Maybe, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Rene Russo gives an incredible performance as Nina Romina, the “vampire” shift news director at the lowest rated station in LA.

She comes across as a woman hardened by the desperation of her tenuous work situation, having many short stints at similar stations in her less then sterling career. Her moral ambiguity is very apparent during debates over the appropriateness of footage used during news stories.

If carnage, crime, and chaos are spilling into white affluent suburbia, all she cares about is getting the footage of it before anybody else. Especially if that footage will boost her ratings, and possibly offer job security.

Russo also displays fragility when she realizes that Bloom quite knowingly holds her fate in his hands. This suggests that her callousness is a defense mechanism she’s developed, not an inherent personality trait as with Bloom.

Bloom’s naive and sometimes inept intern/assistant Rick, is played very convincingly by Riz Ahmed.

Ahmed makes Rick a likeable and pitiable character, someone who is just looking to survive and have some purpose in life. Something that will remove him from his current situation of constant uncertainty.

Ahmed plays Rick in such a way as to make him seem ignorant and lacking in confidence. It’s not that he is stupid, but more that he seems to suffer greatly from feelings of inferiority.

Bill Paxton, Michael Hyatt, and Kevin Rahm give great supporting performances. They do however get out-shined by Gyllenhaal, Russo, and Ahmed. It comes as the logical result of a story that revolves so heavily around a main character whose interactions are primarily with two other characters.

Dan Gilroy makes an impressive statement with this film serving as both writer and director on a movie that stands as his directorial debut. For a movie that runs nearly two hours, it moves quickly without sacrificing anything to fit within that time-frame.It could have run longer and I likely wouldn’t have noticed.

The story is constantly revolving around Bloom and never focuses specifically on other characters or strays on any tangents not directly involving him. The performances Gilroy was able to garner from this cast will likely get him serious consideration for future projects and possibly even industry awards, but not likely this year.

Some people may want to question the legality of Blooms actions; they need to remember that movies ask us to suspend disbelief even if they take place in the “real world”. This movie isn’t confronting the issue of legality, rather the ethical and moral dilemmas surrounding the graphic nature of news content and the lengths some will go to in order to get it.

This move was dark, humorous, thrilling, thought provoking, and often very disturbing and uncomfortable to watch at times. Frankly I believe that’s how it was supposed to be. It evoked all those feelings and still left me with the realization that I REALLY enjoyed taking this twisted trip through Los Angeles with a sleazy “nightcrawler” like Louis Bloom.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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