Saturday, June 20, 2015

Nightcrawler (2014)

Where there's human misery, there's a camera rolling

Every morning someone is reported as to being shot on the local news. After seeing enough bleak accounts day after day, I start to wonder what kind of affect it has to know of random, one-off incidents that barely scratch the surface. Your filter can only include or exclude so many stories of what feels like your city crumbling around you. Eventually it can get backed up with an unwashable fear that may turn irrational in the way it obscures what was once a clear view. Only to come full circle when one unconsciously watches and waits for a shred of resolve or understanding that they'll never get in the format it's long been in. This film is going to take on some of those messages, though push the tone further than the general movie-watcher may be accustomed or comfortable with. Saddle up, make sure the red light is on and get ready for what could be someone's--or your--last ride.

"Nightcrawler" is a pitch black character study and satire--rightfully exaggerated--about a man's introduction to the caught-in-action videography side of local crime news in L.A. As one well-paid stringer, as they call 'em, says, "If it bleeds, it leads." Depending on how you look at it it can be both refreshing or asphyxiating--eye-opening or eye-clenching--or sometimes both. There's an irony to it--like with "American Psycho"--in how society inadvertently excels a sociopath to greatness. It steers away from the tried-and-true tale of a hero's rise to righting wrongs that you could walk out feeling good about. I mean, some can be aspiring and challenging depending on the give and take of the direction; others can feel like a kind of grasping fantasy in a real world that is as harsh as picking yourself back up off its hardened, weather-worn concrete paved paths.

Instead of centering around a martyr like, say, a "Serpico" that unflinchingly does the right thing despite those around him, you get to watch the actions of its doppelganger Louis Bloom. His brazen confidence and quench for power is something not to take your eyes and ears off of despite his "charming" personality. Well, at least he thinks so. Jake Gyllenhaal transforms himself to be almost unrecognizable in features and mannerisms with the character. With the overall look and pacing being like that of a cramped, overlooked broom closest that reveals an even narrower, darker and darker pathway, it only cements it as he can progressively weigh into you.

For a directorial debut by a seasoned script writer with family connections--Dan Gilroy; also married to the lead actress Rene Russo who plays, Nina, a desperate, green-and-red-in-the-eyes news director who finds something in Louis--this is surprisingly well done by bringing about consistent performances, a sense of tension and mostly developing the plot naturally. There are points that feel single sided to line up to the extreme spectrum of a what-if scenario, though the movie digs its hooks in deep enough to the moment by moment that it can be overlooked. It's not a film that is just going for a "it's good." It's not a neat little package with cute bow and delightful surprise. The difference being that even after the credits rolled it was effective enough to stick with me for getting down and dirty and breaking a share of the usual cinematic rules about an everyday subject that's ingrained and normalized in a portion of us. It can make one wonder what all that chaotic noise of information might actually mean. Is it something we want or need to see, or something we're told we want or need to see? Maybe an ambiguous pull and tug of both.

Rating: 8.5/10

Director: Dan Gilroy (writer of "Reel Steel" and "The Bourne Legacy")
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed.
Site: IMDB
Trailer: Youtube link