Director: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton
Jake Gyllenhaal is on something of a hot streak. Last year, he played a pivotal part in Prisoners (far and away the best thing in a disappointing film) and wowed festival audiences in Enemy. He once again takes the lead in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, showcasing the best performance of his career so far.
He stars as Lou Bloom, unemployed but by no means lacking in ambition. Happening upon a crime scene being filmed by a cameraman, he decides to become a ‘nightcrawler’, roaming the streets of LA, armed with a police scanner and camera, filming crime scenes and selling them to the local news – or the highest bidder. But Lou has to be the best, and sometimes a body might need… adjusting in order to get that perfect shot.
Lou is a fascinating character, whose indomitable drive to succeed is only matched by his sociopathic nature. Everything he says is regurgitated from somewhere else. He doesn’t blink, he doesn’t eat, he doesn’t sleep; he is a Travis Bickle for the information age, solely focused on one thing: personal advancement. Gyllenhaal, gaunt and fearless, was born to play him.
He is matched by a brilliant supporting cast. Riz Ahmed’s human foil provides an emotional centre for the film, but a particular highlight is Rene Russo as Nina, an unscrupulous news producer willing to buy Lou’s footage regardless of how he acquired it. Russo’s all too infrequent screen appearances are always impressive, so it’s a real joy to see her finally have another role she can sink her teeth into. Similarly, Bill Paxton just bein’ Bill Paxton is never one to disappoint, here playing a seasoned rival cameraman.
The greatest surprise in Nightcrawler, however, is Dan Gilroy himself, making his directorial debut after spending 20 years in the business as a writer. His last offering was The Bourne Legacy, an underwhelming spin-off of the Bourne franchise, and before that, the family-friendly Real Steel. But this is a different beast altogether; Nightcrawler is a confident, chilling work that marries the cool LA-by-night of Drive with the disturbing tone of Taxi Driver and the satire of Network. And it feels fresh.
Gyllenhaal has already been mooted for awards success, and it would not be unmerited; however, I doubt the Academy will recognise a film or performance this dark. Lou Bloom is as iconic a character as Christian Bale’s take on Patrick Bateman, and will hopefully become the cult anti-hero he deserves to be. If you’re lucky, he might even add you on LinkedIn.