Thursday, February 26, 2015


Creepy, smart, thrilling

     Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is the most trenchant comment about TV culture since Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1983) or Lumet’s Network (1976).  A week ago I said that Jake Gyllenhaal should be up for the Oscar mainly because he was

in a movie this year.  After watching it last night on MOD, I can say he should have been nominated because he’s wildly frightening.  He plays Lou Bloom, a petty thief who, by chance, starts taking pictures of traffic accidents and selling them to a low-rated local morning news show.  

Renee Russo and Gyllenhaal
     Set in L.A. and taking place mostly at night, this feels like a noir that Hitchcock might have made if he’d been able to put his kinks right up on the screen.  He came closest in Psycho (1960) and Frenzy (1971), and Nina Romina, the treacherous, brilliant blonde TV news director Rene Russo plays would have been right up his alley.  Russo should have been up for some major awards for this (she was overseas and by smaller critics’ circles) and her final scene with Gyllenhaal made me squirm.  I felt like I’d caught the scabies watching it.

The Brilliant or Sociopath Nightcrawler
     Gilroy’s script answers many questions, but tantalizingly leaves others open.  Where does Bloom originate?  The suspense lies in wondering, then seeing how far he will push himself and others.  He yammers on so rationally at times that he seems like he’s either brilliant or a sociopath.  At times, he delivers information without any affect and it chills because it’s impossible to place his emotion.  And if that cannot be placed, neither can his feelings nor his motivation.  The other questions are how he makes it to the final scene and how long he’ll go and to what extreme, but I don’t want to give away too much.

     This is Gilroy’s first time directing and he proves his chops in two ways.  First, he hired the great Robert Elswit and his visualization of the night city is both glittering and poisonous.  As Neil pointed out, it looks like Edward Hopper.  There’s even a diner sequence as part of the climax.  Second, Gilroy shoots and paces a chase sequence that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t seem choreographed.  He demonstrates his taste and discretion by not allowing it to go on for a moment too long. 

Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed
     Gilroy also made three intriguing casting decisions in supporting roles:  Bill Paxton, grounded, generous, and tough as a veteran ‘nightcrawler,’ who doesn’t realize it’s a dog eat dog world and he might not be at the top of the food chain; Riz Ahmed, an entrancing English actor and rapper, turns Rick, Bloom’s employee, into the heart of the movie; and Michael Hyatt, a veteran Jamaican/English/American actress, who makes every moment count as a granite tough detective.  Hyatt’s performance shows up the one flaw in the movie, which is the ending.  Thematically (and very cynically), it makes sense in a male version of All About Eve, but it’s not very realistic because that detective wouldn’t have let go.  Maybe that’s me being naïve and not totally getting the point because Nightcrawler is the antithesis of dopey innocence. 

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