Director: Dan Gilroy
Talent: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed
Release Date: 31st October 2014
Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a lonely but determined man who wanders the streets of Los Angeles in search of a purpose. He has little formal education, but has learnt a lot from self-help websites and online education courses: a product of the Digital Age, looking like a demented Fonzie and talking like a pick-up artist. After failing to sell some stolen copper wiring at the start of the film, Bloom stumbles into the seamy world of freelance crime reporting. He and other ‘nightcrawlers’ chase ambulances and police bulletins to capture horrific accidents or crime scenes on video camera. More gore equates to more cash in the world of network news and Bloom begins to take bigger, more dangerous risks in order to capture the best footage possible.
With its variation on the set-up from 1950s noir Shakedown, Nightcrawler ostensibly casts a critical eye on relationship between violence and the media. The film revels in the violence-as-commodity language of the TV news and its producers: we’re reminded again and again how the news really operates, shown again and again what the public really want to see. In practice, the film is little more than an exercise in exploitation filmmaking, pure and simple.
There are some remarkable elements. Gyllenhaal as Bloom is as delightful as he is terrifying, with his performance alone guaranteeing at least some entertainment. The film also cribs its looks from the Michael Mann School of Photographing LA, which is pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately, good looks and some stand-out performances can’t elevate Nightcrawler above its own wilful scuzziness. For all its posturing, the film casts no judgment on its characters or their actions — perhaps that’s the point, but it’s a lazy, wrongheaded point, whatever way you take it.
Words: Luke Maxwell