<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Dan Gilroy. Starring Jake Gyllenhall, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed
Worse things than ghouls and vampires lurk the streets at night. They’re called ‘video journalists’.
In what is one of the creepiest films this year and the most intriguing – mainly due to actor Jake Gyllenhaal’s chilling performance – Nightcrawler manages to be a scary movie without talking dolls or little dead girls screaming.
With no money and no job, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhall) steals metal fences and manhole covers to sell as scrap. He then has the temerity – and some may say initiative – to ask the guy he’s selling to for a job. Of course no one wants to hire a thief. But it is Bloom’s smooth talking, intellectual banter that fascinates you. He’s like a walking-talking self-help book spewing lines of philosophy and motivational speeches.
After stumbling on a car accident at night where a news crew is filming the rescue, Bloom decides at first to ask for a job but when he’s turned down he decides to do it himself. With a cheap camera and a police scanner he begins to prowl the streets looking for news to peddle to the local TV stations. His over-enthusiasm makes you laugh at first but then you realise his unfeeling take on life and death is creepy to say the least.
But Bloom finds a compatriot in Nina (Rene Russo), a local TV station exec who doesn’t mind bending ethical standards as long as she can get her lowly channel some ratings. Blood sells, especially if its upper class white blood spilled by lowly poor and coloured people. Bloom is only too happy to oblige for the right pay cheque. He hires an assistant who he pays a pittance but motivates to work hard to be his ‘employee of the month’! Rick (Riz Ahmed) isn’t too smart; the scenes between him and Bloom are some of the funniest in the film.
But Bloom’s tactics steadily grow more and more audacious as he becomes hungry for fame and fortune. He has no qualms moving a dead body to the right position for a good shot before the police arrive at the scene. He wants his ‘company’ name mentioned in the newscast. He’s shrewd and the lowlifes of the nightly news are only too happy to accommodate since they’re in the same boat of recession that plagues America. Anything for a quick buck!
Jake Gyllenhaal lost weight for the role. His sunken, piercing eyes and slender jawline coupled with slicked back hair make him look like he’s on the hunt. And this actor seems ready for big things. He’s going to make the news himself soon, probably with an Oscar nod.
Rene Russo as the over-the-hill exec trying to hold on to her career and her looks is just as slimy only in a more sophisticated mask.
Sometimes parody, sometimes thriller, Nightcrawler is insightful and entertaining. Though you could say the plot isn’t perfect. At points you wonder if no one at the TV station or the police station had anything to say about Bloom’s tactics. But then this is the land of make believe and sometimes you have to make it up and make people believe what you want them to.