Monday, November 3, 2014

[Review] Nightcrawler

"If it bleeds, it leads."

Jake Gyllenhaal goes full-on sociopath in Nightcrawler, a neo-noir thriller and sleek satire on journalism ethics. There aren't really as many surprises as anticipated here, and the story is generally straightforward. But it's still riveting--all driven by Gyllenhaal's relentlessly focused performance.

Lou (Gyllenhaal) is a starving, bug-eyed loner in LA. His only source of income is selling stolen scrap metal and bicycles. One night, he happens upon a crime scene and witnesses a freelance cameraman (Bill Paxton) capturing the aftermath. It appears Lou has discovered his new career path. Eventually, he invests in a police scanner and a camcorder and begins videotaping various crimes and accidents around the city. After selling some grisly footage to a local news station director (played greatly by Rene Russo), he becomes addicted to the job and gets really frickin' good at it. Pretty soon it comes to the point where he's literally and figuratively crossing the 'DO NOT CROSS' lines.

Nightcrawler explores the strange and thought-provoking idea of making a living off of other people's violent and deadly mishaps. But Lou takes it to the next level, as he desperately begins hoping for blood. He hovers around the fresh dead bodies like a hyena, clamoring for the perfect shot. The film also presents a depiction of how the news media craves a drastic story. The narrative exaggerates this concept to comical measures, but at the same time, it isn't all that far off--especially when you think about how people watch the TV show "Cops" and that there are entire cable networks dedicated to real-life murder investigations. None of this is revelatory, but it doesn't really have to be.

Jake Gyllenhaal's performance is something else. He's detached and unsympathetic. Strung-out and skeleton-like. He delivers such a chilling and creepy deadpan vibe through his speech and mannerisms that you'll be recalling Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. Instead of bringing humanity to the character, he makes the character as least humane as possible. Gyllenhaal is on quite the roll.

Fittingly, almost the entirety of Nightcrawler takes place at night. Lou's bright red Dodge Charger stands out in the darkness as he cruises through bright red stoplights and gets bright red blood on his shirt sleeves. There are things in this film that probably shouldn't be zoomed in on, and there are lights flashed where they probably shouldn't be. Or should they?


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