“Nightcrawler” Review

The directorial debut of Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler is the most recent vehicle for Jake Gyllenhaal. Written by Gilroy, the story takes us into the underground L.A. crime scene. Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a man desperate for work, who discovers nightcrawlers – freelance camera crews that film serious crimes and accidents. Bloom takes a liking to the industry and attempts to break into it.

Gyllenhaal’s performance is uncomfortable in the best way possible. You know from the moment he appears on screen that there’s something slightly off about him, but the film makes the brilliant decision to create some likeability with Lou Bloom, until it’s slowly revealed what a manipulative sociopath that he actually is. Gyllenhaal lost twenty pounds for this role in attempt to seem like a ‘hungry coyote’. His character is unnerving but his performance is amazing. Rene Russo, Gilroy’s wife, gives a fantastic performance as Nina, a local TV news producer. Bill Paxton is great but doesn’t have much screen time or opportunity to develop his character. And Riz Ahmed gives a wonderfully subtle performance as Bloom’s sidekick.

The film is photographed by Robert Elswit – Paul Thomas Anderson’s resident cinematographer. With most of the film taking place at night, light is used in the film sparingly, with haunting results. The juxtaposition between the dark and beautiful images of L.A. and the horrific police scenes creates a wonderfully uneasy environment. As an audience member, you’re so engrossed in the mayhem of the night that it’s actually the most shocking when there’s a quiet daytime scene.

Nightcrawler has some wonderful social commentary in its script, but can sometimes get too self-indulgent when making its points. The second act felt repetitive, with the same pattern of scenes happening over and over. It felt like the filmmakers had found some concepts that were shocking and daring, but they didn’t quite fill up a full movie, so they kept hitting the themes over and over. Then the third act runs entirely too long, trying to introduce too many ideas with not enough time.

That said, the film is wildly entertaining all the way through. It’s a great character study with some good social commentary. It does some pretty extraordinary things with its small $8 million budget. It’s unsettling yet enjoyable, and I would highly recommend it. 8/10.

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