Tuesday 4 November 2014

Review: Nightcrawler

Year: 2014
Director: Dan Gilroy
Screenplay: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenyall, Rene Russo, Riz Amhed, Bill Paxton.

Synopsis is here:

There's still a belief that the American dream exists. The ideal that no matter who you are, you can work your way up to success, regardless of your creed or culture. Even if you're a psychopath. Dan Gilroy takes this concept to a cynical extreme in Nightcrawler; a blackly comic crime thriller which packages familiar themes of a morally bankrupt T.V news world for the YouTube generation.
The last words of the previous paragraph, may sound a little hackneyed, but Gilroy's tale of the unemployed yet unscrupulous Lou Bloom, who takes a fancy to freelance video crime journalism (read: trawling L.A at night and recklessly filming crime scenes) has a touch of the TMZ to it, despite the film's focus on local T.V news. Halfway through the film, Rene Russo's Nina; an aging, headstrong T.V director, asks how he seems to know so much about her. His answer is simple: "Everything about you is online." The sentence seems throwaway because these days, it's an obvious remark. Yet hidden beneath the surface is the reason why the film's characters seem to hold a whiff of desperation. I might be possibly reading far too much into what may be just a small piece of conversation, but its utterance has us fill in the gaps. The falling numbers of a local T.V news station, the unknown reasoning behind Bloom's unemployment, his quirky, self-help style knowledge. There may not be an ounce of fat on the film's narrative, but there's still more than enough in the screenplay to provoke thought.

One should not expect going into Nightcrawler to meet anybody nice. This is the point and the subversive notions that the film put forward are neatly observed. Morals and ethics are questioned, but are now well worn items in a playing field which is all about the getting the most eyes on screens. Standards in morality? They no longer apply. Just get the shot, no matter what the consequences are. Everyone here has an angle, from Russo's Nina, who channels her inner Diana Christensen, to the slick buccaneering of Bill Paxton; a fellow nightcrawler whose massive cheese eating grin rears its head in nearly each scene he's in. These are creatures that only seem to appear at night. Sucking up the tragedy and spewing it into digestible segments for the morning news.

Nightcrawler is headed up and carried by Jake Gyllenyall's unhinged Bloom; a Rupert Pupkin type whose ghastly lack of scruples and faux charm is only matched by his entrepreneurial spirit. Gyllenyall's gaunt, wide eyed visage and wordy, self-help mannerisms only hide the fact that Bloom is a soulless shark whose finally found out where all the best meat has been hiding. Emotional outbursts from others only gain vague acknowledgements. He's never interested in their aims, but they are part of his goal as the film works towards a bitterly droll climax.

Dan Gilroy's first feature is sleekly presented by Robert Elswit's cinematography (Capturing an alien L.A with a mixture of both digital and film for night and day, respectively) with a lean, neatly contained story from his own screenplay. Nightcrawler is almost too neat, with the film's final third wrapping up in a way that feels a little too well-kept for its own good. Refrigerator questions pop up a tad too early, and by the end of the film, the narrative only needs you to pull one or two threads to see it unravel. Yet, as a piece of grubby sleaze, Nightcrawler is certainly an enjoyable flick to muddy yourself with. From the first dubious act, the film is quick to draw you further down the rabbit hole. The thing that will get you going is just how hard it is to get the dirt to rub off afterwards.