Nightcrawler movie review: how news gets broken

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Nightcrawler green light

Noirish 1950s cynicism meets nasty 1970s Corman-esque exploitation in a thriller that is uncomfortable, unpleasant, unforgiving, and pretty darn brilliant.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Jake Gyllenhaal

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s like noirish 1950s cynicism meets nasty 1970s Corman-esque exploitation: Nightcrawler, the directorial debut from screenwriter Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy), is uncomfortable, unpleasant, unforgiving, and pretty darn brilliant. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom is a gaunt specter haunting scenes of real-life horror — car accidents; home invasions — in Los Angeles, ready with his camera to shoot whatever gory footage he can capture to sell to the highest bidder among the local news stations; if it bleeds, it leads, and that means ratings bonanza, so the gorier and more fear-mongering the better.

For Louis, previously a semiprofessional vandal selling stolen copper wiring and manhole covers to scrap-metal merchants, the transition from thief to “nightcrawler” is hardly a transition at all for a job that, it would seem, requires no training, no knowledge, no experience, and — most vitally — no ethics. Gyllenhaal’s (Enemy) profoundly creepy performance, his most accomplished yet by far, imagines Louis as a weirdly stilted approximation of a man, as if he weren’t human but is merely aping human behavior he has studied, mostly, it would seem, from business and entrepreneurial self-help seminars… and if you never thought that stuff bordered on sinister sociopathy before, Louis is here to convince you of it. (Who Moved My Corpse? anyone?)

But lest we be misled into believing that a serial-killer vibe is a requirement of the job, Bill Paxton’s (Edge of Tomorrow) somewhat more human nightcrawler (he tries to bring Louis onto his team) and Rene Russo’s (Thor: The Dark World) TV station news director (she ends up being his primary client) will disabuse us of that notion. The scariest thing about this tale of modern mainstream journalism as a horror story, as a cultural nightmare, is that even the supposedly “normal” are complicit in it… including us, for responding to it. That’s the collective we, of course. I don’t watch it, and maybe you don’t, but a helluva lot of someones certainly do.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Nightcrawler for its representation of girls and women.

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LaSargenta
LaSargenta
Mon, Nov 03, 2014 4:48pm

(Loverman saw this over the weekend. Gave it a thumbs-up. He loves suspensful movies.) It looks interesting, but I’m not sure I’d want to spend two hours in this character’s company. Gyllenhal is talented…it might be too much talent in this persona for me. >-<

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  LaSargenta
Mon, Nov 03, 2014 11:07pm

This won’t be for everyone.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Nov 03, 2014 11:37pm

Yeah. I’ll have to give this some thought. When I watched the trailer, it made me remember waking with a blazing headache from a dream where I was convinced I had a tooth that had suddenly gone rotten and spongy all the way to the tip of the root. I stuck my fingers into my mouth to convince myself that hadn’t happened. Some art is really vivid.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Jul 20, 2015 11:51pm

OK, saw it! Well worth seeing, too. I’m glad I was watching it on Netflix, tho’, ’cause I could take my eyes from the screen and look around my apartment and distance myself from this fucked up world this sleeze lived in. It is rare I say something like that.

Kevin Thomsen
Kevin Thomsen
Tue, Nov 11, 2014 10:06pm

J Gyllenhaal, why are you so perfect? October Sky, Enemy, Donnie Darko, Prisoners, and now this.
~doki doki, G-hall

Loomis Pants
Loomis Pants
Sat, Apr 04, 2015 1:31pm

I loved it but it seemed to have a huge hole in it: what exactly happens between him and Ms. Russo? I can’t imagine it and why should I have to try?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Loomis Pants
Sat, Apr 04, 2015 7:34pm

So you need to actually see him dominating her in the bedroom for that aspect of the story to work? Their dynamic in the workplace isn’t enough?

thomskis
thomskis
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sun, Apr 05, 2015 3:16pm

I feel that the fact that nothing was shown was actually quite masterful. We didn’t need to see it. Also, in all seriousness I feel that your positive review of this movie is one-in-the-eye for the knee-jerk feminism accusers. Russo’s character was almost as flawed as Lou’ Bloom, and empowered in her own way. Her post-coital sigh after viewing the climactic footage was a great touch.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  thomskis
Mon, Apr 06, 2015 10:24am

I don’t see much that’s anti-feminist or anti-woman in this movie. Russo’s character is certainly flawed, and complicated, and definitely not very nice or noble… and that’s a *good* thing for the representation of women. Feminism isn’t about holding up women as perfect paragons… it’s exactly the opposite. I’m totally mystified by people who think feminism is about promoting women as perfect and unflawed. (I don’t think you’re suggesting this, but I think you’re right in thinking that some people might see something anti-woman in this movie.)

Thera Pitts
Thera Pitts
Fri, Jun 19, 2015 6:23pm

I discovered this movie far to late, but I thought I’d chime in anyway. I’m annoyed that none of the critics were saying anything about Riz Ahmed’s performance as Bloom’s morally conflicted protege. He brought such a sad, quiet sense of desperation to what could have been a puddle deep LA slacker archetype. Easily the most realistic performance in the movie. And he’s pretty adorable to boot.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Thera Pitts
Fri, Jun 19, 2015 9:52pm

It’s not always possible to mention every aspect of a film in a review, and I especially try to avoid writing a checklist.

Ahmed *is* fabulous here, as you note. And we have female-gazed at him.

Thera Pitts
Thera Pitts
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Jun 20, 2015 2:56am

Yeah, it is better that a review read well. But still good to know you agree!