Nightcrawler (2014)

I think, in some respects, that this film / role is the one where Hollywood may start viewing Jake Gyllenhaal (‘Donnie Darko’) as something resembling the American answer to Christian Bale (‘American Psycho’), if ‘they’ don’t already. Gyllenhaal is a talented actor, who has proven that he can effectively carry many different types and styles of film, from Big Budget Summer ‘tent-poles (‘The Day After Tomorrow’, ‘The Prince of Persia’ etc) to smaller, more intimate ‘indie’ films (‘Donnie Darko’, ‘Jarhead’ etc). THIS role truly does solidify his chameleon-like ability to physically and mentally slide into a character that will take us on a cinematic journey worth exploring.
THE STORY
‘Nightcrawler’ focuses on ‘Louis Bloom’ (Gyllenhaal), initially a down-on-his-luck weirdo who’ll do anything to make a buck. When we first meet him, he’s tooling around a darkened train-yard searching for scrap metal to sell. The first scene sets the tone of his character, as he spots a nice watch on the wrist of the security guard that approaches him while he tries cut a swath of chain-link fencing free. After attempting a version of ‘charming ignorance’ to get out of the scenario, the bug-eyed creep lunges at the guard. We then cut to ‘Bloom’ driving on through the dark and empty streets of LA in his shitty little hatchback…with a fancy new watch on his wrist. We never find out the fate of the victimized guard, but we can certainly imagine the worst. From there, we begin to delve into the clearly sociopathic machinations of ‘Blooms’ existence as he tries to find his ‘calling’ in Life. Purely by chance, he comes across a fiery car crash on an freeway on-ramp. As he watches in fascination, a freelance video reporter named ‘Joe Loder’ (Bill Paxton) suddenly materializes on the scene, with his assistant in tow. Watching the two vultures maneuver around the crash, jockeying for the most ‘money’ camera shot, ‘Bloom’ is suddenly struck with inspiration. Using his effortlessly larcenous ways, he then establishes a little start-up capitol and, using low-quality equipment, begins stalking through the night in search of news-worthy stories of mayhem and tragedy. Being a self-serving sociopath, ‘Bloom’ has no qualms pushing the boundaries of The Law (and Good Taste!) when it comes to his manner of investigation. When a particularly invasive piece of footage finds its way into the hands of News Director ‘Nina Romina’ (Rene Russo), ‘Bloom’ takes her enthusiasm for his work as confirmation of his new ‘calling’, pushing him to further exploit people around him in order to achieve his bottom-feeder goals. As his increasing stock-pile of sordid footage gains him more and more clout ( in both finances and reputation) in the underbelly of the News World, his methods become more and more concerning. It all comes to a head when he and his own assistant ‘Rick’ (Riz Ahmed) beat the police to a Home Invasion 911 call, only to find the crime still ‘in progress’…and abruptly upped to 3 counts of violent murder, right before their eyes (and lenses). ‘Bloom’ then finds himself under the scrutiny of the LAPD and must find ways to out-smart the investigating detectives in order to maintain his hold on his ‘work’.
This is Gyllenhaal’s film, through and through. ‘Bloom’ is a twisted and dangerous bastard, made all the more unnerving with his creepy use of charm and coercion. Every single person he encounters, in one way or another, falls victim to his unscrupulous methods and ambitions. At times, it’s uncomfortable to watch. Gyllenhaal plays ‘Bloom’ with an interestingly clipped and precise manner of speaking, and a creepy smile that suggests that he finds the whole world to be a source of sick amusement, especially when people around him begin succumbing to his manipulations. The supporting characters are good, particularly Rene Russo (‘The Thomas Crown Affair’) and relative newcomer Riz Ahmed as the two people most directly affected by ‘Bloom’s twisted manner of viewing and handling the world. Bill Paxton (‘Aliens’) is, of course, solid but his role felt somewhat hollow, as if he only existed as a shallow obstacle to be hurdled. The manner with which the character was ‘dealt with’ was somewhat abrupt and borderline anti-climactic (even though I acknowledge that it didn’t need to be anything spectacular).
The look of the film instantly brought to mind the work of Michael Mann (‘Heat’). The color / lighting scheme, particularly for the scenes at night (of which there are many) screamed “I’m clearly influenced by Michael Mann!!”. I also couldn’t help but to have the film ‘Drive’ (2011) pop into mind as well, particularly where pacing was concerned. This both worked for and against ‘Nightcrawler’, in my opinion. The narrative structure of the film felt somewhat uneven, with a climactic shoot-out / high speed car chase not feeling like a climactic shoot-out / high speed car chase. However, that being said, I have to admit that, since we were viewing the story through the ‘damaged goods’ perspective of the protagonist / antagonist, the ‘bent’ layout of the plot could be seen as working in the films favor, on an artistic level.
All in all, ‘Nightcrawler’ is an oddly-paced demonstration of Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting ability and his dedication to transformation for the service of the story. Hell, his weight loss alone is worthy of mention, which naturally brought about mental comparisons to Christian Bale’s under-rated performance in 2004’s ‘The Machinist’ (insane physical transformation!). This is NOT a bad thing. The flick is essentially a character study focusing on a human being who lacks all the positive personality traits that make a person a ‘human being’. He’s a sick bastard who would make functioning sociopaths proud. Hell, an alternate title for this one could easily be ‘How to be a Dangerous Lunatic and Succeed in Corporate Media’. The story or, more pointedly, the presentation, won’t be for everyone, but those looking for a quirky and mildly uncomfortable narrative told from the perspective of a person you’d NEVER want to meet in Real Life, this is a safe bet. There’s really no need to go rushing off to the theatre to see this one, but it’d be worth checking out on Home Release. Not a perfect film, but certainly an interesting one.

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