Re:View - 'Nightcrawler'

Christopher Fowler
K72A3451d.tif Writer/director
Dan Gilroy's
debut feature is a stylish LA night-noir that comes on like Scorsese and plays out like a cross between Michael Powell's 'Peeping Tom', 'Network' and 'Taxi Driver'. Films with disturbing lead characters are tricky to pull off - how do you make an audience care?
Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a bug-eyed, intense, delusional thief who discovers his purpose in life after witnessing a freelance TV cameraman (Bill Paxton) ghoulishly snapping footage at a highway accident. Pretty soon he's set himself up with a timid loser sidekick (superbly played by Riz Ahmed) as a 'nightcrawler' selling grotesque murder/accident footage to a morality-free TV station intent on pumping out crime stories to fearful audiences. According to Renee Russo, the ratings-chasing news manager, the network specialises in home invasion stories when they feature white neighbourhoods under attack. Russo gives the newbie a chance, only to find the liminal, sinister Bloom quickly seizing control of the buyer-seller power balance. He has her over a barrel, and is happy to sexually blackmail her... Bloom is one of the creepiest sociopaths ever put on film. He doesn't understand the limits of social behaviour and can only imitate basic human interactions, couching everything in absurd business-manual jargon as he seizes what his generation has been promised (and sold short on) in the simplest way possible; by lying and slashing away any ethical concerns about how he gets his extreme-close-up footage. Which rather takes us to a moral junction; we wait to see if Bloom will start manufacturing his own ghastly scoops and turning into a full-blown monster of the night, his behaviour as a human echoing what corporations happily do every day, but Gilroy has something subtler in mind - a balls-out critique of modern society that earns its way by creating a climate of perpetual fear. If Gilroy's directorial decisions occasionally threaten to tip the film into lurid melodrama, it should be noted that this is very much the right tone for a dark social satire. Gyllenhaal's manic, eye-swivelling (and Oscar-worthy) performance gives us the monster we not only deserve but have created for ourselves. The last third of the film becomes almost unwatchable tense. Interestingly, quite a few US critics have been damning about the film, not happy to recognise it as a satire while complaining about excess and unsympathetic characters. Clearly they overlooked the film's second lead, Ahmed, the poor, fearful schlub who gradually becomes conscious of what he's being asked to do. UK reviews have been more sympathetic to the film's intent, recognising 'Nightcrawler' as a skincrawler, a terrific debut movie from Gilroy, and an over-the-top pop at the underside of the information age.


Bride of the B… (not verified) Tue, 18/11/2014 - 19:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I thought it was brilliant and really darkly funny in places. And tense, definitely tense.