Nightcrawler (2014) | Bluray release

February 28th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Writer/Dir:Dan Gilroy | Jake Gyllenhaal Bill Paxton, Sharon Tay | US Thriller | 118′

When Nightcrawler was released in 2014 it proved popular with both audiences and critics. It did well at the box office and even received a Best Original Screenplay nomination at the 87th Academy awards. On the visual front Nightcrawler is a gripping affair but for me it’s been very over-rated, especially narrative-wise. So much of Nightcrawler is simply a shiny surface – outstanding photography of L.A. night scenes, from Robert Elswitt, does not compensate for an undeveloped and foreshortened plot. Which is a great pity because initially the storyline appeared to be aiming for a head-on jugular attack on the American public’s craving for violent crime reports satisfied by an ugly, breakfast TV news agenda.

Louis Bloom (A glassy-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal) is an unemployed guy who’s thieving material from a scrap yard. Unable to get a job after selling the scrap, he turns his attention to other late-night prowling. Bloom follows freelance journalists who turn up, with the police, to film violent crime scenes and accidents. He’s captivated by the idea of making a living from this work. After buying a camera he films the carnage and sells the footage to a TV company. An assistant named Rick (Riz Ahmed) is hired and they both begin to dangerously expand into filming territory that borders on the illegal. Bloom produces some seductively graphic material for TV director Nina Romina (Rene Russo) that will please her network. Yet the police department begin to suspect that Bloom may be withholding important evidence gathered at a crime scene.

Critics have tended to enthuse over Nightcrawler’s suspense. One commentator spoke of Nightcrawler as a “shattering critique of both modern-day media practice and consumer culture.” I would challenge the adjective “shattering” and replace it with the blander word “informative.” Its theme of morally reprehensive guys who feed television with voyeuristic content is hardly original. You can go right back to movies like Network (Grotesque satire) and Medium Cool (Semi photo-journalistic critique) to uncover dubious media ethics. Yet neither of those films fails to be disturbingly transgressive like Powell’s Peeping Tom (Its serial killer cameraman probably providing a model for the serial parasite/film reporter of Nightcrawler).

Nightcrawler isn’t the visceral experience that director Dan Gilroy intended it to be. Louis Bloom’s kind of newsgathering is only ‘shocking’ if it produces imagery and words that really get under your emotional skin. The beautiful lighting too often dilutes the violence – excitement, rather than suspense lies in the skill of lots of second-unit directors who worked very well on the car pursuit sequences.

I didn’t really believe that TV director Rene would let herself be so manipulated by Bloom (Even though she has job insecurity). As for Louis, he is an odd, strangely comic socio-path loner (Bloom’s business jargon echoed some of the autodidactic menace of Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy – a far superior film to Nightcrawler.) If only Gilroy’s script had pushed the idea of media power to its limit. We might then have had Bloom storm his way up to becoming the head of the network and then Nightcrawler might have possibly delivered a ‘shattering’ critique. Unfortunately the film’s good ideas run out of steam leaving us with smaller plot triumphs for its anti-hero.

Jake Gyllenhaal is effectively creepy and delivers some good lines – “Do you know what fear stands for? False Evidence Appearing Real.” Riz Ahmed touchingly conveys his vulnerability as Bloom’s sidekick. But Rene Russo’s acting appears stiff and uncomfortable. She doesn’t convince me of her guardedness towards the over-intense Bloom or her sense of anxious ambition.

Nightcrawler is not a bad film, just a good, if disappointing thriller that acts as if it’s being very daring. It’s not really posturing in a fake manner: but lacks a dramatic investment to realise its strongly held moral attitude. The stand that Nightcrawler takes is sadly lacking a raw edge that could have delivered something more provocative about America’s salacious relationship with the smart controllers of its crime-box in the living-room.




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