The job market is never an easy place and even a job shooting the death and mayhem on the city streets can be out and out murder. “Nightcrawler” is a taut thriller that evokes the early days of a director like Michael Mann as we troll the streets of Los Angeles looking for the next big crime because if it bleeds then it leads.
We meet Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) a driven young man who is desperate for a job, when one night he stumbles upon the business of L.A. crime journalism where freelance camera crews tape all the car wrecks, carjackings, assaults, stabbings and murders that the streets offer up. Lou muscles his way into this high octane, cut throat world where human pain and suffering translates into some pretty serious dollars. With the help of Nina (Rene Russo) a veteran news director holding on to the last remnants of her career, Lou begins to blur the lines as he slowly starts to manipulate the story and transitions from observer to participant in order to find the best story possible, no matter what the cost.
From the seedy underbelly of the 24 hour news cycle, “Nightcrawler” is a stylish and gripping affair that is anchored by one hell of a leading man performance.
Writer and first time director Dan Gilroy settles into the centre seat with a fair amount of ease as he makes the streets of Los Angeles drip with sleaze in the neon drenched lights of the twilight hours when all of this horrible stuff takes place. bringing us back to a City of Angels that in the rich history of cinema has never been all that pleasant. With a rich score by James Newton Howard and some stunning cinematography from Robert Elswit the streets damn near come alive as we are never quite sure who is going to pop up out of the nearest dumpster or around the dirtiest looking alley. Gilroy doesn’t give us any character that are all that noble but ones that are dynamic and incredibly interesting as we get a cavalcade of vibrant characters that emerge from the gutters of these seedy city streets.
In what just might be a career defining performance, Jake Gyllenhaal goes to some deep and dark places to find the enigmatic and sociopathic Lou Bloom. With a wide eyed, manipulative glare his Bloom reasons out the journalism game with a shocking aplomb as he goes to places that most people would never dream of. Gyllenhaal channels a manic and vicious desperation that is so cold and calculated that you can’t help but admire Jake as an actor, to be able to find this sociopath who is just so focused that you can’t help but admire him while you are horrified by him. Rene Russo steps up to the plate as Nina Romina the veteran news hand who sees the golden goose in Jake as someone how doesn’t say no to anything and knows what it takes to get ahead. She’s horrified by him but drawn to him at the very same time as a kindred spirit who matches her drive to not only thrive but survive, something that she thought she had long since forgotten about. Riz Ahmed is great as Lou’s reluctant assistant and Bill Paxton is his colourful self as the veteran freelancer who tries to take Lou underneath his wing but at the end of the day it comes back to Jake with a performance for the ages that will burn into your memory long after the movie is over.
“Nightcrawler” is that juicy piece of pulp that we have all been waiting for that doesn’t skimp on the sleaze while still having enough meat on its bones to be an epic piece of film making.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Nightcrawler” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Please check with local listings for show times.