In Review


5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars - 'Outstanding - Starkie!'
Directed by Dan Gilroy
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo.
2014 USA
Review by Clinton Stark

Just how far will we go in today’s society to get the story?

Fear sells. And being there first is a must. But if you could manipulate something here and there, or perhaps ignore a fact that would prove your long-standing conviction false, all in the name of ratings and job security, just exactly how far would you be willing to push the boundary?

In the gorgeous looking Nightcrawler, petty thief Louis “Lou” Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) never questions his instincts, let alone his morality. Turns out that mentality is obviously financially better for him, apparently worse for society–or at least for L.A. Stumbling upon a car wreck one evening, he becomes fascinated by film crews documenting the gruesome scene. Soon enough he finds himself in a pawn shop, and the proud owner of a camcorder. A citizen journalist is born, and the chase is on.

Racing his jalopy through the streets to beat local television stations to the scene results in enthralling, visceral, and, again, gorgeous, sequences. But how to fence the bloody footage?

Rene Russo’s character is, at least on the surface, the polar opposite of Jake Gyllenhaal’s. “If it bleeds, it leads,” she says. And to clarify, she describes her broadcast as “a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.” She strikes a deal to use his footage, despite his absence of journalistic pedigree. The guy has competitive instinct and in this town, that’s more important than anything. False evidence appearing real. Indeed.

Gyllenhaal is supreme in this role. Those that are accustomed to his past work, might be surprised by his skeletal frame (he lost 20 pounds for the role). His gaunt appearance reminds me of Christian Bale in The Fighter. Emancipation, especially in the facial area, can really heighten each and every move. Creepiness, an added perk. Even better, the script feeds him one corny Internet money-making, career-building adage after another.

“My motto is if you want to win the lottery, first you have to make the money to buy a ticket.”

They’ve done studies he tells his intern (who have been known to be promoted into full-time positions with the company!), and have determined that “communication as the number one single key to success.”

These quips, and Gyllenhaal’s wonderfully dry, straight ahead delivery are gold. He’s like the Dicky Fox of ethics-free reporting. And there’s not a side to his character that doubts the mantra even for a moment. He always knows the right thing to do. Entrepreneurship comes easy. His nascent start-up Video Production News begins to expand.

False evidence appearing real.

Invariably the stakes are pushed to the extreme. News becomes unadulterated voyeurism and manipulation. Some of the best scenes come when Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo are not only flirting with each other, but with the very concept of “news.”

As far as I can tell, this is director Dan Gilroy’s first feature. It’s first rate work. One interesting night scene dissolves into another, before we’re flying over radio communication towers. The media is omnipresent, and much of the message lies in what is not said, not shown. Here’s a film that stylishly takes shots at the establishment, and of the extremism of what has become of the nightly news, and yet partially disguises itself as a horror film. I loved every second of it. And it works just as well on a repeat viewing.

The last year or so has been a wonderful time for indie film. Foxcatcher and wrestling. Whiplash and jazz drumming. Birdman and the theater. And, Nightcrawler and the media. I’d rank this one right up there alongside some of my all time favorites. Black Swan and the ballet. There Will Be Blood and mining. All films where learning about the behind-the-scenes machinations of these various vocations is as equally entertaining as the cinematic story-telling.

Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear