nightcrawler movie

Movie Review: Nightcrawler

nightcrawler movie

Cary, NC — Nightcrawler with Jake Gyllenhaal is more than worth the price of admission, and might even end up being one of my favorite movies this year.

Nightcrawler: The Setup

Nightcrawler is a portrait of Lou Bloom, a driven but unemployed man who finds out that he has a knack for crime journalism. A self-described “go-getter,” Lou quickly proves to his peers that he is absolutely willing to go that extra mile for a story. It just so happens that Lou is also a sociopath, so that extra mile is far and above where any other person could possibly go.

With Nightcrawler, first time director Dan Gilroy has crafted a scathing satire of broadcast journalism that also features an incredible performance from star Jake Gyllenhaal.

Tense, Darkly Comedic

There is a pitch black sense of humor running through Nightcrawler, and man, I mean dark. “If it bleeds, it leads.” says Nina, played by Rene Russo (Thor, Lethal Weapon 3), the veteran news producer to whom that Lou sells his videos.

You see, a nightcrawler is a freelance camera man that spends his nights listening to police scanners waiting for a particularly gruesome crime to happen. Once it does, he races to the scene hoping to get the first shot of the tragedy and sell it to the highest bidding local news station. It’s a sick business, but for better or worse, violence and tragedy mean big ratings, and Nina has Sweeps Week coming up.

Director Gilroy walks a fine line here, but he manages to pull it off without being too obvious or in our face. The satire is there, but it doesn’t undercut any of the more intense moments of the film.

There is one scene specifically where Lou accidentally arrives at the scene of a break-in before the police. Not only does he get footage of the suspects and their vehicle, but he goes inside the house and films the numerous victims inside. It’s incredibly tense, and Gilroy uses silence to great effect, all punctuated by the fact that this man has just knowingly trespassed on an active crime scene for the sake of the perfect shot.

Gyllenhaal Gives Another Great Performance

Jake Gyllenhaal gave one of my favorite performances last year as an obsessed detective in Prisoners, and this year he seems to have done the same with his portrayal of Lou Bloom.

The actor lost some weight for the role, nothing too substantial but certainly noticeable. The result, though, is that he now looks incredibly gaunt. His eyes seem more sunken and noticeable. In short, he looks creepy. Fitting, since he’s playing a creep. And make no mistake, Gyllenhaal has crafted a creep for the ages.

The first time we meet Lou, he is stealing wire and copper from a work site. When he is approached by a security guard, Lou beats him unconscious and heads straight to a construction site to sell his loot, all with a smile on his face. Gyllenhaal portrays Lou with a politeness about him, even presenting him as someone who is also very well spoken. He’s too polite though, and too well spoken. Lou acts the way he thinks normal people act. But the reality is that underneath Lou is a ferocious monster. At one point, when being confronted by someone for not understanding people, Lou quietly responds “What if my problem isn’t that I don’t understand people, but that I don’t like them?” It’s a brutal moment, and Gyllenhaal sells it completely. An amazing performance.

Special mention has to be made of Bill Paxton ( Twister, Big Love ). If Jake Gyllenhaal is the ultimate creep, then Bill Paxton is the ultimate slime ball. He plays a fellow nightcrawler that butts heads with Lou while competing for stories. It’s actually a pretty small part in the movie, but I’m such a fan of Paxton and he is so good at being slimy and unlikable that I just had to mention it here.

One Of The Best Of The Year

Nightcrawler is an impressive directing debut for Dan Gilroy. The movie is filled with gorgeous cinematography of the Los Angeles landscape and the script, also by Gilroy, is rich with satire and character. Jake Gyllenhaal might also give the best performance of his career thus far. If this is the kind of thing Gilroy has up his sleeve, then I really can’t wait to see what he does next.

Nightcrawler is more than worth the price of admission, and might even end up being one of my favorite movies this year.

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Jordan Hunt covers the movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews.

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Cultural Arts coverage sponsored in part by Academy Street Bistro in Downtown Cary.