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NIGHTCRAWLER (review)

Review by Sharon Knolle
Produced by Jennifer Fox, Jake Gyllenhaal, 
Tony Gilroy, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak
Written and Directed by Dan Gilroy
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, 
Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton, Ann Cusack

Los Angeles by night is a seedy, violent place and in Nightcrawler, our guide to that sleazy underbelly is Jake Gyllenhaal, who is mesmerizing as a tabloid “photojournalist” with no moral compass.

You can add Lou Bloom, the maniacally ambitious character Gyllenhaal plays, to the pantheon of villains who represent the worst in ourselves: He’s Gordon Gekko, Patrick Bateman, even Norman Bates.

With Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy (screenwriter of The Bourne Legacy) has crafted a brutal masterpiece, an indictment on greed, ambition and today’s sensation-obsessed media.

And in the dangerously driven Lou, Gyllenhaal has found the role of a lifetime.

Scarily underweight, Gyllenhaal plays Lou with a naked intensity that’s unnerving, even feral. In shedding about 30 pounds for the role, Gyllenhaal has also shed his nice guy, heartthrob mage; underneath that pretty face was lurking a creepy grin and a gaze that is no longer sleepy and doe-eyed but menacingly wide-awake.

It will be impossible to look at Jake Gyllenhaal from now and not see a little bit of this character’s insanity.

When we first meet Lou, he’s stealing fencing materials and manholes. Despite his shady way of making a living, he’s still a vocal proponent of The American Dream, pitching himself and his willingness to work hard to anyone who will listen.

As he counters later in the film when his assistant calls him crazy, “I’m not crazy. I’m persistent.”

Lou Bloom is, simply, a guy who will never take no for an answer. He approaches every situation like a stalker, whether it’s a woman or a job, and so his embarking on a career where he films car crashes is scarily perfect for him.

Soon, he’s one-upping the other professionals on the beat, racing them to the latest accident or shooting, getting even gorier footage, even moving the body for the best angle, if he has to.

His sensationalistic footage impresses Rene Russo, who’s the news director of the fictional KWLA station, who tells Lou, “Think of our newscast as screaming woman, running down the street with her throat cut.” Russo is terrific (she’s married to Gilroy, who wrote the part for her). It would be great to see her get some recognition this awards season.

At first, Lou appears to be a nervous newcomer, one who’s eager to please. But soon, somehow, Lou gains the upper hand, manipulating everyone around him by playing on their fears and weaknesses. They all soon realize they’ve made a deal with the devil, but they have no choice but to continue.

There’s a little bit of Lou in all of us, especially in L.A., where image is everything. Who hasn’t misrepresented your freelance job as something more impressive-sounding than it really is? And who hasn’t felt the pressure to outdo your competitors, even if that means crossing a line? 

This is Gilroy’s directorial debut and it’s stunning. He’s created a film that will be talked about for years to come, that will be studied alongside Network as a cautionary tale of what we should never become.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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