Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 57 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Violence including Graphic Images, and for Language
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Written by: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton, Ann Cusack, Kevin Rahm & Kathleen York
As much as people won’t admit to it, there’s a certain adrenaline rush in seeing violence and destruction around the world. It’s the same kind of feeling you get when passing a horrible car wreck on the highway. You don’t want to stare, but can’t look away. Tune into any news program and they’ll report at least three horrible crimes or accidents in the first ten minutes. The phrase “If it bleeds, it leads” wasn’t coined by any film or article. It exists as it’s very true in the news broadcasting business and that’s no secret. NIGHTCRAWLER is a new thriller examining a very sick person who uses the public’s fascination with blood to his advantage. Driven by an unnerving script and an even creepier performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, this is a dark film that’s going stick with you for a long while.
Lou Bloom is a thief looking for a job in L.A. He’s taught himself all the basics in being a good businessman that he could find on the internet, but is struggling to find work (mainly because he’s a scumbag who steals petty objects around him). It is by sheer coincidence that Lou happens to drive by a flaming car wreck as a van of camera men record it. Lou discovers a whole underground world of filming crime scenes and selling the footage to whatever news network will pay the most. Seeing as he lives in Los Angeles, there’s no shortage of crime of accidents to bank on. Lou gets very good at his job, way too good at his job!
NIGHTCRAWLER centers around Lou and lucky for us, Jake Gyllenhaal is a force to be reckoned with in the role! He fully embraces the body of this greasy-haired creep. The character is a human parasite feeding off of the few people he associates with (an assistant and the boss at a troubled news network). In a lot of ways he also sucks the integrity out of those around him, but it’s in more subtle ways than the warped morally corrupted compass he constantly carries. Rene Russo (Lou’s boss) and Riz Ahmed (Lou’s assistant) are both great as well in side roles, but Gyllenhaal is the real focus in this story. Bill Paxton is appropriately slimy in the part of Lou’s main competition.
Not to keep harping on Gyllenhaal’s stunning performance, but one more detail needs to be said. We only see brief moments that show honest human emotions from Lou and they aren’t pretty. These dark revelations are so quick that I actually realized how unnerving these scenes were after the film was over. That’s part of the brilliance in Lou’s character. As he plays everyone around him like a fiddle, the viewer knows full well what kind of man he is. Thus making every scene where he’s acting calm and collected that much scarier. The film is pitch-black in content. We dive into the gritty nature of Lou’s upward (for him) and downward (for us) spiral in this underground profession. Slick visuals and a heavy atmosphere showcase that the city can be so much scarier after dark. I was uncomfortable for the entire running time of NIGHTCRAWLER and that alone says mission accomplished! This is scarier than any horror movie I’ve seen in 2014.
The final third of NIGHTCRAWLER pays off on a lot of developed character traits and subtle details. There’s a carefully constructed finale in which I was struggling to catch my breath. What I was seeing on the screen was crazy and I was glued it. There’s not necessarily a happy ending with a bow tied on top of everything that some may be expecting, but a fitting conclusion to a chilling film. Those last moments are going to be floating around in my brain for quite some time.
NIGHTCRAWLER left me speechless and in a state of horrified awe. It’s as if Dan Gilroy made a darker, sinister, and terrifying version of TAXI DRIVER. Instead of the protagonist being an unhinged vigilante, he’s just an all-out evil sociopath who rarely shows a real emotion. Gyllenhaal better receive an Oscar nod or there truly is no justice in the cinematic world. Cold, calm, and disturbing, just like the character of Lou, NIGHTCRAWLER is one of the best films of 2014!