There may be few movies released during the Halloween season that match the utter creepiness that is Nightcrawler, film that oozes with totally bizarre moments. It opens on area screens Friday (Halloween).
In Nightcrawler Jake Gyllenhaal, an actor who excels on the screen and is rarely conventional when it comes to roles he takes, delivers one of his best performances to date as a classic underachiever who finds his niche in TV news of all places.
Audiences can take Nightcrawler for what it appears to be on its surface, the story of said loner, thief and loser for what it appears to be on its surface. Or they can scratch a little deeper and find a movie that riffs on the state of media in this country along with taking its share of shots at a certain political mindset in subtle ways.
The former provides tremendous entertainment. The latter makes the viewer think. Put them together and Dan Gilroy, the film’s writer who is also making his directorial debut, creates an imminently enjoyable cinematic experience.
Gyllenhaal stars as Louis Bloom, a petty thief who plies his trade processed metals [think copper pipes] from buildings. For someone who appears so slight and so very wimpy, he proves ruthless even in that trade.
But when he stumbles upon a freelance news crew at an accident scene, he gets a brilliant idea. If they can do it, he can do it. He buys a cheap – less-than-professional-grade camcorder – and he begins to ply his trade.
Some startling accident footage gets him in the door at a Los Angeles TV station where the night news director, Nina (Rene Russo) loves what she sees. In short order, Louis develops an exclusive relationship with her station.
Louis, who obviously doesn’t have the proper training to know when not to cross certain ethical lines, gets juiced on the adrenaline high of getting the story first and takes more chances in that realm. He commits moral breaches that no journalist with any ethics ever would. That allows him to expand his power and influence at the station and he uses that to make inroads personally, also.
Gilroy gives the audience a movie that will ensure jaws drop with its subject matter. It’s smart, intriguing and engrossing. His screenplay offers a direct indictment of the current state of media – especially the electronic media, which has slowly, but surely been pushing the envelope for years regarding content that they will show on the air.
But there’s also a stab or two taken at the conservative mindset. Whether it’s relevant depends upon the viewer’s beliefs, but they add some heft to the film.
Gyllenhaal’s controlled mania is completely memorable. He keeps Louis teetering on the edge of sanity and mental collapse. There’s a suspicion that the character is a total sociopath and Gyllenhaal shows complete comfort in toying with the audience regarding whether that is indeed the case.
Nightcrawler proves to be an exercise in exploring the creepier side of human nature.
Director: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Studio: Open Road Films
Rated: R for violence including graphic images, and for language
Running time: 117 minutes
George’s rating: 4-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com