Director: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Bill Paxton
Running Time: 117 minutes
Release Date: October 31st
“If it bleeds, it leads.”
Lou Bloom is many things. He’s driven, willing to work hard and highly motivated. He’s a self-taught and self-made man. He’s a gaunt parrot spewing TED talks and 12-step programmes. Mainly, he’s a weirdo. When we first met Jake Gyllenhaal, he was a weirdo too, chasing worms holes and talking to rabbits. Since then, for the most part, his good looks dictated him taking leading man roles, but deep down, he was always a weirdo. A one-two with Denis Villeneuve last year saw a return to his bugged out ways, impressing as a tetchy, tattooed detective with a penchant for buttoned-up shirts in Prisoners; and working overtime as an obsessive college lecturer and his charismatic doppelgänger in Enemy.
At Nightcrawler‘s start, Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is running hustles that Bubbles from The Wire would pull, stealing and selling scrap metal, then looking for gainful employment. Driving his battered hatchback, he stops at a gruesome roadside accident, and, on a whim, decides that ambulance-chasing and crime-scene videography is for him. A pawned camera and a disregard for journalistic ethics see him rise the ranks at a local station whose ratings are tanking and are desperate for shock material.
Between Gyllenhaal and Dan Gilroy’s tight script, Bloom becomes an unlikely anti-hero. He’s scum but you want to egg him on, wondering just how far he can go to get what he wants. He’s so inherently unlikable that it’s impossible not to admire him — sociopathic tendencies aside, his work ethic is impressive. He’s the modern day personification of the American Dream, clambering his way to the top using his rival’s hair as rope and bones as ladders. An emaciated Gyllenhaal, eyes hollowed at the back of his skull, dives head first in the madness.
Gilroy’s wife, Rene Russo, is great too as the desperate news editor who initially holds power over Bloom before being despicably manipulated by him; she wonderfully handles the tightrope between cold, steely boss and a woman at the end of her tether. Bill Paxton is perfectly sleazy, like Simon the car salesman from True Lies dropped the secret agent schtick and started hunting down fresh roadkill. Riz Ahmed’s Rick is dopey, helpless and ultimately doomed as soon as he’s sucked into Bloom’s vortex under the guise of an internship — the JobBridge scheme will never look more appealing after.
Paul Thomas Anderson regular cinematographer, Robert Elswit, shoots LA in all its smoggy grime, its skyline is a pitch black tarpit that flicker with lighters cooking dope while James Newton Howard’s score pulses and vibrates in a queasy low-end hum. Nightcrawler is both appalling and tremendously funny, its shameless nihilism is a badge of honour, and with Gyllenhaal in world-consuming form, a must-watch. To terribly paraphrase Bloom, “if you want to see it, you’ve got to buy a ticket.”