Shooting From The Hip
By Adam Sturrock
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton
Nightcrawler isn’t a super-polished film, in fact, it makes you feel grubby. It is dark and twisted. It sinks into every nook and cranny of your mind and makes you want to scrub your hands of any of its residue. But something compelling lingers. This is one of the most fun I’ve had watching a film this year and it is a home run for the debut director, Dan Gilroy and his centre-piece, Jake Gyllenhaal.
Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is somewhat hard to pin down. He is determined, hard-working and everything that comes out of his mouth seems to have been taken out of a self help book. But he believes it. There is something charming about the way he confidently states his goals in becoming successful; no obstacle seems to be a problem in getting to the top, that much is true later on in the film. But beneath that unwavering smile and the gleaming eyes seems something fake and shallow, nothing genuine exists beyond his glazed gaze – almost Patrick Bateman-like.
Louis is truly a slimy character, it oozes from his pores, derived from the gel that slicks his hair back. It comes as no surprise that he is out of work and peerless but after a coincidental meeting with freelance video journalist, Joe Loder (Paxton), Louis becomes a nightcrawler, a lens for hire; filming the dead and the wounded for the local news station run by Nina (Russo).
It quickly becomes apparent as to how morally uncaring the main characters are. In one particular instance, rather than seem distressed by a horrible accident, one news company gloats to the other that they got the “money shot”. In another instance, when questioned about his ethics, Louis continues to talk about how he is improving his framing and lighting of victims rather than seem worried – even when he willing to move about car crash victims in order to get that better footage for the news channel, something seems off.
In truth, there isn’t really a typical character arc in the film. There wasn’t a point in which Louis or Nina for example, go from being do gooders to immoral people; they were always in the morally gray areas. Because of this, there are very few boundaries to prevent the characters from going anywhere in the film and it becomes unsettling to see how far they will go. The film eventually asks the question: what does it say about us, as a society, that we allow and even encourage, people like Louis to succeed?
The media, again, receive a bit of a beating up specifically in this film. The news company featured in the film is seen as callous, driving up fear of minorities in affluent neighborhoods. Black on black crime is ignored, but Nina’s mantra of “white woman running down the street with her throat cut” is peddled as far as it can go. Does it suggest that this is a case of supply and demand? Are we as audiences looking for the most fear-mongering and thrilling news as possible? Maybe. The blood lust and racial blanket stereotyping must come from somewhere. A cursory look at most American tv shows definitely doesn’t put down any of the accusations.
A deeply uncomfortable piece of bubbling commentary, Nightcrawler sinks its claws in and refuses to let go at all costs. It deliberately over plays the creepy aspects of the script and only fails at the end where uneven pacing slows down its bloody amazing acting.
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