Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler is an intensely-acted and slightly disturbing film that you won’t be able to wash off after initially viewing. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a creepy and polarizing performance as the film’s spineless lead Lou, a rookie crime journalist in the city of L.A., while Bill Paxton and other acting veterans help keep the film balanced with subtle and small character-focused performances. Nightcrawler isn’t the year’s best film like most have claimed, but it’s definitely a unique thriller, soaked in blood and covered with greed and darkness in almost every single frame. Dan Gilroy‘s directorial debut is an eye-opener of the highest degree.
Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a hard-working man, driven to success by completely focusing all of his attention and efforts into one sole thing. His current obsession is that of a crime journalist in the always-busy city of L.A., spending most of his nights driving around in his car, listening to the police scanner and hoping for a murder or robbery so that he can film it and flip it for cash.
His obsession takes a devilish twist once he starts crossing the line between reporter and participator, manipulating crime scenes in order to get the shots he not only needs, but the shots he so desperately wants. Lou isn’t exactly journalist of the year, but he’ll do whatever it takes to get the story, even if that means getting his hands a little more than dirty.
Nightcrawler is a film about morality, greed and obsession and how one man can get caught up in all of that without ever once realizing just how twisted he truly is. Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Lou is a very bright individual and one that’s willing to put in the hard work and man hours for a paycheck, but he’s also a lonely man with an obsession for recognition. He yearns for it, not just by his friends, but by every single person that he comes in contact with. Which, is even more bizarre once his hatred towards most people is factored in.
It’s a sticky situation, with Lou both wanting the attention of those around him, to prove his dominance, while also being completely disgusted with those very same people. Director Dan Gilroy achieves this through a script that’s unbiased and approached from Lou’s point of view at first and then slowly pulled back to reveal his true colors, while still never actually judging Lou for the scumbag that he truly is. Gilroy doesn’t exactly glorify Lou’s existence, instead he simply lets Lou exist and the audience draw their own conclusions as they desire.
Jake Gyllenhaal only enhances the film’s complex dynamics by giving a performance that’s troubled and somewhat sympathetic at times. Lou isn’t the worst guy out on the streets — he’s just a guy that learns quickly and adapts according to the current situation at hand. He’s only as mean and as nasty as he needs to be, which is pretty low and desperate at times. Gyllenhaal helps Lou keep most of his humanity throughout the film, waiting to reveal Lou’s shitty core until the film’s last act, which is built up until it slowly boils over in excellent fashion.
I love that Gyllenhaal can make you love him and laugh at his quick wit and no-bullshit attitude one second and then make you completely despise him the next, when he’s selling out a co-worker or taking advantage of a crime scene. It’s a very blurry line that Gyllenhaal constantly crosses to keep things interesting and to keep us questioning just how far Lou is willing to go.
Is Lou as crazed and twisted as the murderers and psychopaths that he’s capturing on film after they’ve committed a brutal act of violence? Some might argue yes, especially after watching the film’s final moments, while others may simply chalk Lou up as another go-getter willing to jump at any chance in the spotlight and at any opportunity to get ahead of the competition.
Nightcrawler isn’t exactly a cut and dry film with clear intentions and singular motives. It’s a balancing act of the human condition, showcasing moments that can be called good or bad, letting Lou come to his conclusions organically, without ever over-heightening the drama to make the film feel more cinematic.
The film is rooted in reality, which can sometimes be very shitty, scattered with sleazy people that do nothing but corrupt those around them, while masking themselves as the good guys. Nightcrawler captures that essence in a disturbing manner, while also succeeding at being a film that’s slickly shot, densely-acted and downright impossible to turn away from.
Nightcrawler – 8/10