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Friday, October 31, 2014

Nightcrawler 2014 * * * 1/2 Stars

NightcrawlerDirector: Dan Gilroy
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars     Cole's Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton

Dan Gilroy makes his directorial debut with 2014's Nightcrawler. You wouldn't know it though because he comes off as a veritable, seasoned pro. Take the best neighborhoods in Los Angeles and make them seem unsafe. Take a calculated, free-fall actor and let him roam wild. Film a car chase that gets your blood pumping and your heart rate up, and make the storytelling interesting, absorbing, creepy, disturbing, and even nervously funny. That's what Gilroy does here. For 95% percent of "Crawler's" running time, I was blown away. I laughed, I cringed, and I sat numb and transfixed. Only an undeveloped interrogation by L.A.'s finest and a stomach-flu induced ending could keep me from calling this thing flawless. Would I endorse this exercise as realistic? Probably not. I watch the news everyday and it doesn't seem fathomable that dead bodies with grisly images would actually be shown on television. But you can't deny how fascinating or how original these proceedings are. Nightcrawler is one bitch of a ride. And sadly, I almost feel guilty for recommending it.

With a film score that doesn't always trend towards the dour, a disregard for the L.A.P.D ever pulling over a excessively speeding motorist, and a look/feel that harks back to 2004's Collateral (also taking place in the city of angels), Nightcrawler gets you fixated on Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal). He's unemployed, a thief, and a real weird dude. You don't know anything about him except for the fact that he becomes obsessed with filming crime scenes in order to pocket some cold hard cash (through the fictional Channel 6 news). He uses a police monitor, finds out where crimes are committed, and captures the hideous bloodlettings on video camera. He gets paid monster dollars for these trysts but eventually gets in over his head when he gets there before the police. There's an investigation on him, he almost gets charged for murder, but Bloom although lacking in social skills, is smarter than everyone. He starts to blackmail his newswoman, his co-workers, and the whole plank of Southern California. All the while he has his sunglasses on, he puts up a steely face, and gives the middle finger to anyone who might get in his way.

Now the cast for Nightcrawler is proficient and noteworthy. Their roles are equal parts nasty, mean-spirited, unethical, and cold. Bill Paxton is as always, reliable playing a supporting role as a fellow rival to Bloom. He's jealous, angry, and ultimately pays the price for being his videotaping rival. Rene Russo (Gilroy's spouse in real life) is ravishing and frigid as Nina (she manages the news station where Bloom sells his findings). She wants ratings, wants respect, and doesn't give a hoot about what's right and what's wrong. Then we have Riz Ahmed as Rick. As Bloom's sidekick, he's startlingly effective. He may be poor and unwanted, but he still has a sense of decency and with a few un-choice words, goes down in a wave of palatable flames. Oh and did I forget to mention the great Jake Gyllenhaal. So OK, I've always been a huge fan. He never ceases to amaze me of how inventive an actor he is. If you've seen his nerve-endings brilliance in Prisoners and Zodiac, nothing will prepare you for how perfect he is in this role. It's obvious that he lost weight to play Bloom. You can see his cheeks sucked in, his gangly appearance, and his eyeballs looking like flying saucers that might just haunt your dreams. Daniel Day Lewis was in every frame of There Will Be Blood and held the screen in the palm of his hand. Gyllenhaal does it with a similar approach here but he goes a step further. He holds the screen like a molecule that can only be seen by the naked eye. Oscar nom anybody? I sure as heck hope so. Oh and did I mention that Jakey boy channels a little Travis Bickle a la Taxi Driver. He drives around L.A. just like Bickle drove around N.Y.C, is socially inept like Bickle, but he talks a little faster, looks a tad more desperate, and doesn't have a back story or nullified Mohawk like Robert De Niro's infamous, repressed psycho. To endorse Gyllenhaal, I'll give a short dissertation: There is no other actor in world that could have played Lou Bloom and I mean no one. No one!

In conclusion, with superior yet far fetched direction from Gilroy and a social commentary that will cause your jaw to pretty much slam to the ground, Nightcrawler is the type of dark, L.A. based calamity that will "crawl" into one's head and stay there. It's horrifically brilliant because its main lead (Gyllenhaal) is astute in the most creepy, habitual way. For my money, one of the best films of 2014. Let the Oscar race begin!

Of note: (Spoiler alert) I'm gonna warn you, the last twenty minutes of this cynical, pale-hearted vehicle may upset you or leave you with a severely bad taste in your mouth. If you've seen Nightcrawler's trailer, you've probably figured out that Lou Bloom is the perennial bad guy. Well you're right. I for one hate when the bad guy wins and this is exactly what happens. In truth, this is the only stipulation I have for relegating a true four star rating.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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