NIGHTCRAWLER (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT
***SPOILERS? HELL YEAH!***
This is a sensational pitch black character piece that allies a powerful script with violent social satire; all glued together by an Oscar-worthy lead performance from the ever-excellent actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
It’s about monsters. The monster of ambition. The monster of obsession. The monster of humanity. The monster of the Media. The monster of a bloodthirsty public searching for the next violent clip to trend or share on Twitter or Facebook over their morning coffee. Gyllenthaal plays the main monster: Lou Bloom. He’s an anti-anti-anti-hero of our times. A personification of capitalist evil.
Dan Gilroy’s cutting script makes no attempt to make him likeable or even sympathetic. We first meet him stealing scrap metal and beating the crap out of a Security Guard. He then has the balls to try and get a job at the yard he’s selling stolen goods to. So why was I immediately enthralled by Lou Bloom? Well, he has ambition. He has drive. He has linguistic charisma. He has a thirst for success. A thirst for money. And a thirst for blood.
Lou Bloom is a vampire – a night creature creeping between the shadows and he finds the perfect vehicle for his nefarious wants. He discovers he can make money filming car wrecks and violent crimes on the streets of Los Angeles and sell them to a local News station. His TV handler Nina (Rene Russo) takes him under her wing but it’s not long before Bloom is taking flight and manipulating her to his own needs.
With the smooth patter and greasy complexion of a snake-oil salesmen Bloom extends his operation by taking on down-on-his-luck Rick (Riz Ahmed) and competes on the dark, mean streets of LA with veteran ‘crawler’ Joe Loder (Bill Paxton). Bloom will stop at nothing to achieve his expansion goals. The drama really cranks up as he races to record one gut-churning tragedy after another eventually manufacturing violence to his own gain. These guys are filming and selling death – with echoes of Michael Powell’s classic horror film Peeping Tom (1956) – and WE the voyeuristic public are buying it.
I enjoyed the fact that Bloom was a ghost; a shell of a man with little in the way of backstory and yet through his actions we absorb the horror of his character. I was drawn in so much by Gyllenthaal’s magnetic performance as well as a fine supporting cast. Incredibly this is a DEBUT film from respected Hollywood screenwriter Dan Gilroy. However, he directs with aplomb and the end shoot-out and car-chase was a memorable piece of filmmaking – full of tension – with a quite breath-taking pay-off.
I loved this film. It takes the idea of the News Media as not merely objective representatives of fact but rather sensationalist manipulators where murder has become a natural by-product of their lust for ratings. Films such as Gone Girl (2014) and Anchorman 2 (2013) have examined darkly and humorously the role of TV News in society recently but the stylish neo-noir Nightcrawler trumps them. Through Bloom the parasitic press and public are shown to both be vampires draining the life out of humanity. WE ARE ALL MONSTERS AT HEART!