Greetings again from the darkness. Many of us still catch ourselves asking “Why is this news?” while watching the local newscasts. We ask this despite knowing sensationalist journalism is the way of the world, and writer/director Dan Gilroy reminds us (in a rare comedy-thriller) … if it bleeds, it leads.
Jake Gyllenhaal continues his progression as one of the most fascinating actors working today. Here he plays Lou Bloom, a fast-talking, self-help studying, ultra-charming sociopath, with creepy bug eyes (thanks to a 20-25 lb weight loss) and an even creepier grin. Mr Gyllenhaal nails the role in a way that reminds of Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver (Robert DeNiro was 33 at the time – the same age as Jake now).
Three other movies came to mind while watching this: Network (the lack of a conscience approach to ratings), Drive (the stylistic camera work and loner lead character), and Body Double (a fascinating Brian DePalma film from years ago). Rene Russo is the veteran news woman who encourages and enables the Bloom character to use his “good eye” to pursue the money shots … defined as anything that strikes fear into the suburban world.
Gyllenhaal is all in for his role as Bloom. Nightcrawling is the label given to stringers (private cameramen) who compete for the video that will lead the newscasts. Bloom’s google-based training has turned him into a Tony Robbins type who blows through dialogue at a speed every bit as fast as he drives his red Dodge Challenger to the next tragedy. Bloom is the epitome of charm in the wrong hands. Think Ted Bundy with a camera. While Bundy actually committed the murders, Bloom blurs the line between recorder of history and influencing the criminal action. He also delivers one of the first on screen ‘chasing a car chase’ scenes.
This is Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut, though he has written over films, including The Bourne Legacy, which was directed by his brother Tony. Dan also wrote my of my favorite rarely seen films entitled The Fall (2006). Dan Gilroy is married to Rene Russo, and her calm, yet equally sleazy, presence works well with the quirky, in-your-face Gyllenhaal character. Cinematographer Robert Elswit (known for his work with Paul Thomas Anderson) beautifully captures the nighttime energy of Los Angeles, as well as the brutal and savage crime scenes.
Gyllenhaal is the real deal here, and somehow makes this frightening monster believable as a guy who could walk amongst us every day (or night). Early on in the film, his character is asking for a job and spouts off a line that includes a bit about being “raised in the self-esteem movement so popular in schools“. It’s our first glimpse of his psychosis which is also grounded in reality.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you want to see the extremely rare comedy-thriller OR you want to see Jake Gyllenhaal’s wildest performance yet
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: the actual nightly news is creepy enough for you … no need to see how it could be even worse
watch the trailer: