Jake Gyllenhaal once patrolled the streets of Los Angeles as a cop in “End of Watch”; now he drives around them at night filming crime and accidents.
“Nightcrawler” is all about the people who independently film accidents and then sell them to news stations (“if it bleeds, it leads” the film makes sure to tell us a half dozen times). When Lou (Gyllenhaal) steps into this world, he begins to blur the line between observer and participant. Rene Russo and Bill Paxton costar as Dan Gilroy writes and has his directorial debut.
“Nightcrawler” is a nice looking, tense thriller that is almost completely driven by its characters. Every actor has a scene or two in which they own, but in the end this movie would be nothing without Jake Gyllenhaal.
Gyllenhaal is so creepy, unsettling and unrecognizable as Lou that it is impossible to take your eyes off of him. As the film progresses, we become more and more uneasy with every passing scene, as we know it is only a matter of time before Lou snaps; we just don’t know at what—or who—it is going to be at. Lou speaks almost completely in cliché business and motivational lingo (his motto is, “if you want to win the lottery, you have to earn the money to buy a ticket”) and it is not obvious if he is a brilliant negotiator or simply just insane.
Riz Ahmed plays Rick, a homeless young man who is hired as Lou’s assistant. Rick is too desperate for cash to turn away from Lou, or even realize what he is getting himself into, and by the time he begins to realize Lou may be a psychopath he is in too deep.
The rest of the supporting cast does a fine job as well. Russo plays a TV news director who buys Lou’s initial tape, and is equally repulsed and fascinated by him. Bill Paxton has a few fun lines as Lou’s rival, a fellow “nightcrawler”, and Kevin Rahm plays a TV executive, who serves as the voice of reason for the audience, questioning Lou’s methods and whether running certain clips is ethical, or even legal.
The film is edited and paced brilliantly, offering quick-cuts and perfectly timed scenes to keep the flow going, while never sacrificing content. The climax of the film is as tense and thrilling as anything I have seen at the movies this year, and even though while watching we have a feeling we know what is going to transpire, we just hope we are wrong.
Now there are a few points in “Nightcrawler” that feel like they were added simply to showcase Los Angeles, or try and make sure we are aware how “dedicated” Lou is to his job, and this makes the film’s narrative stray a bit and at times make the plot seem a bit aimless, but it is never anything Gyllenhaal can’t get back on track.
“Nightcrawler” is a solid thriller with a brilliant lead performance, shot in one of the most vibrant and neon-soaked cities in the world. The film is worth seeing simply because of Gyllenhaal, but the supporting characters, dark humor and exhilarating climax are a nice treat, too.
Critics Rating: 7/10