Nightcrawler is one of the more stomach-churning films but not for the violence but Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance proving once again, following great turns in Prisoners and Zodiac, to be a versatile actor. But even putting him aside, Dan Gilroy’s satirical screenplay is just one other reason to see this film, it’s akin to a dark and grittier version of Network.
Genre(s): Drama, Crime
Universal Studios Home Entertainment | R – 118 min. – $34.98 | February 10, 2015
THE MOVIE – 4.5/5
Note: This review contains spoilers about the plot. Readers please beware.
Not to overstate things, but Nightcrawler, and in particular its main character played by Jake Gyllenhaal, has to be one of the more nauseating viewing experiences not so much for the gore (not much worse than anything seen on “CSI”) but the discomfort as you watch Gyllenhaal creep it up.
Nightcrawler is centered on Louis Bloom (JAKE GYLLENHAAL), a loser with not much going for him and has distaste for humanity in general. He’s also a weasley fellow with a grin wider than the Cheshire cat and something more devious ideas going on in his mind. When we first meet him, Leo is attempting to steal fencing to sell when he’s confronted by a security guard and when talking his way out doesn’t work, he punches the guy out and steals his watch in the process.
This is a scary dude from the outset and even beyond his appearance; he made my stomach churn with his every appearance, his every word.
Needing money, Louis comes across an accident scene when a van pulls up and out comes a man named Joe Loder (BILL PAXTON) with a camera videotaping the accident in all of its gory detail. Loder is what is known as a “stringer” or “Nightcrawler,” teams who go out in search of crimes or accidents, get tape on them, and even interviews, before turning around and selling to any number of local news networks.
The light bulb goes off in Louis’s head and sets off to get some cash, by stealing a bike, and getting a basic camera and an old police scanner. His first night isn’t great looking more like a tourist with the handheld camera but even though the footage is lousy (i.e. crappy), he does manage to get a couple hundred bucks from news director Nina Romina (RENE RUSSO) for some grisly footage, making his first and important connection. Louis also is able to rope in the naïve and desperate Rick (RIZ AHMED) to serve as his navigator/assistant.
Eventually, through manipulating crime scenes and accidents to gain better footage, which thus led to larger paychecks and morbid gratitude from Nina, Louis manages to purchase better equipment and a better car. At the same time, he’s still losing out to the seasoned Loder and sabotages his van which, that night, runs into a pole seriously hurting Loder and filming the footage to add insult to the injury.
The subplot to the movie begins when Louis hears of the report of a home invasion on the scanner and arrives to the location well before the police. Leaving Rick in the car, Louis goes to the (luxurious) home and begins hearing gunshots inside. He hides behind some bushes while still managing to tape the two perpetrators escaping in their SUV and filming their license plate. After they leave, he goes inside and begins filming the bloody crime scene and each and every victim. He and Rick drive away just as the police arrive on the scene. Louis edits the footage on the fly leaving out the footage of the murderers and other footage inside before selling for a bundle to Nina.
Of course, the police are quite interested upon seeing the footage and begin questioning Louis who provides a vague description of the suspects. It’s the beginning of an elaborate plan for notoriety and money.
Nightcrawler was directed by Dan Gilroy, writer of a handful of films including Two for the Money, Real Steel and The Bourne Legacy (not an entirely impressive crop) and makes his debut as a director while also writing the screenplay. And it is one hell of a debut with a darkly satirical crime drama akin to Network that is if Network also had a character along the lines of Patrick Bateman in there as well. It’s surprisingly well written and the pacing, with help of Dan’s brother John, was fantastic being able to provide high-octane action with chase scenes and tense-filled suspense.
Beyond the writing and direction is obviously the acting and especially Jake Gyllenhaal who unfortunately didn’t get a Best Actor Academy Award nomination (Gilroy did get one for his screenplay). It’s not just creepy but the character, a complete and utter sociopath, is also not very likable (even taking away his horrific actions) and yet like a bad accident, you can’t look away. The others in the cast, like Rene Russo and Bill Paxton (in a cameo-like appearance) take a back seat to Gyllenhaal, though it is nice to see Russo again (IMO, she was underutilized in the two Thor movies).
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
This release comes with a slick title-embossed slip cover. Inside are the retail DVD Copy and a redemption code for the Digital Copy (iTunes and UV).
Audio Commentary – In a family gathering, Writer/Director Dan Gilroy, Producer Tony Gilroy and Editor John Gilroy join together to provide on-location tidbits on filming technique, the screenplay and the actors.
If It Bleeds, It Leads: Making Nightcrawler (5:15; HD) is a short and basic ‘making-of’ featurette with interviews by the cast (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo) and crew interwoven with behind-the-scenes footage.
VIDEO – 5.0/5
Nightcrawler sleazes onto Blu-ray presented with a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. Detail levels are sharp and colors are, as expected, a bit more muted even for the well-lit scenes and while there is some graininess for the darker shots, it’s nothing overabundant or distracting.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is more than adequate for this movie. The dialogue sounds crisp and clear throughout but the track does kick into a second gear, no pun intended, for the more action-oriented scenes particularly the chase sequence where we hear the gear shifts in Louis’s Dodge Challenger car. The lossless track also has good depth making use of the rear channels for ambient noises and James Newton Howard’s haunting score.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, Nightcrawler is one of the more stomach-churning films but not for the violence but Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance proving once again, following great turns in Prisoners and Zodiac, to be a versatile actor. But even putting him aside, Dan Gilroy’s satirical screenplay is just one other reason to see this film, it’s akin to a dark and grittier version of Network. The Blu-ray released by Universal might be limited in the features department but the video and audio transfers are both brilliant.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.