Wednesday, 29 October 2014


Jake Gyllenhaal cuts a slim, skeletal figure in Nightcrawler as scruple-blind newshound Lou Bloom, a walking moral and ethical vacuum hunting for the most graphic crime scenes he can find and film. Harvesting images of dead, mangled victims of car crashes and shootings in order to flog the footage to Rene Russo's desperate news director, Bloom stalks the LA night fuelled by the teachings of a thousand internet self-help manuals and the twisted belief that he's performing a vital public service. He's a fascinating character, and Gyllenhaal wears him like a cheap suit, his skin glistening with the oily residue of what presumably used to be Bloom's soul, long since sweated out. It's a shame, then, that Nightcrawler isn't quite the vehicle he deserves: it's like having Huw Edwards presenting an item on skateboarding chickens on an early morning regional bulletin rather than grilling the Prime Minister on the 10 o'clock news.
It's not hard to make out the shadows of movie sociopath standards like Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin lurking behind Lou Bloom's eyes, and like those characters, Bloom is a product of the world he inhabits: a seedy, venal, urban underbelly most of us would rather pretend didn't exist. But Bloom more readily brings to mind a Patrick Bateman before he made his fortune: talking like a shopping channel and single-mindedly carving a path through life at the (occasionally fatal) expense of others, he hasn't yet graduated from socio- to psychopath but you get the impression it's only a matter of time.

Perhaps it's appropriate that Dan Gilroy's film is stylish but flimsy; there is, after all, not much going on beneath the surface of Lou Bloom. And it's fun while it lasts - Gilroy's script guarantees a healthy smattering of jet-black LOLs, he sure can shoot a car chase, the whole shebang is gorgeously lit and Gilroy and his missus - aka Rene Russo - work together to create the kind of past-their-sell-by-date, once-formidable businesswoman part that rarely gets written for actors of her stature. But for all its rather obvious commentary about the amorality of newsgathering in the 21st century, there's not a lot else going on here. Lou Bloom is way more fun than his own story, and the briefest hint of Gyllenhaal letting the Bateman-esque mask slip points towards a madder, ballsier film than the one we get.

Gilroy drops the ball altogether at the film's climax, uncertain how to satisfactorily deal with his protagonist's deeds and apparently offering up a selection of endings for us to choose from. A more daring director could have left a truly shocking taste in the mouth, but Gilroy's last-minute bottling betrays his inexperience: where Lou Bloom deserves a film made by the director of Fight Club, instead he gets one from the writer of Real Steel.

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