And since I feel like stealing thousands of other people's joke, no, this movie is not based on the Marvel comic character. There, I said it. Can we get on with the review now? Nightcrawler follows the story of Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), your typical, run of the mill psychopath. He's dedicated, hard working, socially awkward and he's also a sociopath who hates other people. Sound like a nice guy? Yeah, maybe. Not really, but maybe. I'll explain later. Lou is looking for a job, but unfortunately nobody wants to hire him. After witnessing a car crash late one night, Lou gets the idea to start a freelance camera crew company, or nightcrawler as they like to call it. He hires a young assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed) and together they roam the streets of L.A. in search of crimes to film.
Before seeing this film I deemed Enemy to be Jake Gyllenhaal's best performance this year, although to be fair, that was his only other film this year. After seeing Nightcrawler, however, my opinion has differed greatly. Jake Gyllenhaal's performance in Nightcrawler is absolutely insane. His character is psychotic, yet you want to root for him. You shouldn't, my god you shouldn't, but you do anyway. You can't help it. He understands people, but he's not a people person, making for some incredibly awkward situations, in particular a scene between him and Rene Russo's character having dinner comes to mind.
Director Dan Gilroy makes it hard to believe that this is his debut. The film feels so visceral and polished, and not by any means the work of a first time director. The film feels like the work of a master, despite this not being the case. Gilroy not only knows how to write a good screenplay, but he knows how to direct too. The camera angles are masterful, similar to ones shot by Lou himself. Gilroy even gets a chance to show off his knowledge of cinematography and framing through some lines of dialogue, which I guess counts for something.
His screenplay is off the hook, bringing to life the dirty secrets of the news. How truthful this film is would be an interesting case-study. I know I'd love to find out. Of course, news reporters probably don't go to such an extent as Lou does in this film, moving the placing of dead bodies to make the perfect shot or, even worse, letting civilians die for the sake of a good report, but I'm curious to find out just how nosey they can get. "If you want to win the lottery then you have to make the money to the buy the ticket," says Lou, and this is all too true. He follows through with his motto, even when it compromises with both the law and his morals.
The film is darkly comedic too, bringing in a twisted sense of humour. While partner in crime Rick provides justified comic relief, Lou provides the humour that we shouldn't be laughing at it, but do anyway. He's all out bonkers, leading to some hysterical moments. Intentionally hysterical, of course. I'm still not 100% sure what makes these moments as funny as they are, but I'm happy to say that they are. He's never sarcastic and unless he's lying to save his own skin, he's essentially always honest. He's upfront about everything, persisting and persisting until he gets what he wants and he's at the top. There's no middle ground for him, only the next level up.
The film is confronting and unethical, but in the most delicious of ways. It's a film that can be devoured up with ease and with satisfaction. The events taking place go against all morals I have set up within myself, but they're a thrill to watch. As Lou tries harder and harder to get the better story he's faced with situations more dangerous than the last. Each one of these situations are caused by Lou. He wants the best story and he'll do anything to get it, even if that means breaking into crime scenes before the police arrive. It's a seriously messed up movie, but I just love everything about it.
To sum up, Nightcrawler is a darkly comedic film that's unethical, thrilling and overly satisfying. Director Dan Gilroy makes it hard to believe that this is his first feature with his polished direction and off the hook screenplay, plus a psychotic performance from Gyllenhaal.
4 1/2 Stars