Friday, November 21, 2014

Movie Review - Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler (2014)
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, and Bill Paxton
Directed by Dan Gilroy

Despite a great performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, the tale of a bug-eyed scrap metal thief who discovers a penchant for becoming a freelance videographer on the streets of Los Angeles that is Nightcrawler doesn't quite have the bite to fully embrace its obvious attempt at criticizing the news industry's incessant need to shock for ratings.

Gyllenhaal is at his best as Louis Bloom, trimmed down significantly so that his gaunt look stands in juxtaposition to his character's headstrong nature.  Fast talking and quite manipulative, Gyllenhaal's Louis makes us feel uneasy while watching him much as he makes those around him a tad uncomfortable too.  By far the best part of Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal is impressive here fully embodying the character and making the film worth watching for him alone.

Unfortunately, screenwriter Dan Gilroy's directorial debut doesn't match Gyllenhaal's talent.  As a director and in terms of visual aesthetics, Gilroy actually presents a rather fascinating look at the underbelly of a industry and he does so with success in terms of creating a dark and grimy atmosphere.  His screenplay, however, falls a bit short.  First, I never quite bought the concept that a news station would actually purchase and air the rather disturbing images Louis brings to them.  Funnily enough, after watching the film, I've paid much more attention to stories on the local news and none of them have come close to matching the horrors that Louis brings to the newsroom of Rene Russo's Nina, a producer of an early am local news show in LA.  I simply didn't buy into the critique that the film seemed to be selling about local news pushing the envelope.  Had this been a cable news station or perhaps some online news organization, the concept may have been a bit more plausible to me.  I admit that this may seem like an odd fault to find in the film, but not "believing" what it was trying to pitch to me made it more difficult to get behind the flick's premise.

Second, while Louis is a well-conceived (though freaky) character, the rest of the film is inhabited by one note personas that can't hold a candle to Louis's idiosyncrasies.  Russo, in particular, is wasted here, given essentially only reaction shots to Louis's craziness.  Desperate for stories that can keep her job relevant to her bosses, I just couldn't buy into the fact that she would sell her soul (essentially) to Louis to keep her job secure.

Despite my qualms, however, I think Nightcrawler has more pros going for it than cons.  It's a bit slow moving, but Gyllenhaal's presence is so intriguing that you oftentimes forget that not much is going on around him.  It's a decent flick, but not one into which I could completely buy the premise it was selling.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-


  1. "Bug-eyed" perfectly encapsulates this movie for me. Besides enjoying watching that crazy character, I was left with a singular feeling. And somehow, "bug-eyed" is definitely all wrapped up in that feeling.

  2. Anonymous, if you perchance are the Anonymous who's followed this blog from its inception, it's been too long since you've last visited!

    And if you're not the Anonymous of Yore, welcome!

    Nevertheless, the "singular" almost indescribable feeling is a good descriptor of how I felt with this one (and "Birdman" as well). That said, Gyllenhaal's performance was pretty darn good and made this one worth watching.

  3. Oh, it's me. It's always me.

  4. I've been reading all your write-ups of course. I lately also intended to watch some of the Netflix-streaming Disney stuff when you announce what is being reviewed next--a sort of "watch along with you." But as you can see from my lack of comments, I haven't actually done that (yet?).