Overview: A sleazy street reporter pushes moral and ethical boundaries. Open Road Films; 2014; Rated R; 117 Minutes.
Gyllenhaal: It’s worth mentioning that Jake Gyllenhaal comes into Nightcrawler on a four-movie streak as impressive as any established by an actor in the 2000s. Source Code, End of Watch, Prisoners, and Enemy all showcase a performer willing to abandon what’s expected of him to walk along the fringes of cinematic storytelling. He’s been increasingly daring and increasingly effective in his role selection. He is the strongest element of each of those aforementioned movies. The same is true with Nightcrawler. Gyllenhaal is so precise in meeting the demands of the movie that his character becomes a chore to watch. Gyllenhaal’s performance as Louis Bloom is so exact that it makes the movie an increasingly unpleasant viewing experience. In that sense, in a weird twist of poor arrangement, Nightcrawler‘s failure as a movie showcases Gyllenhaal’s strength as an actor.
Louis Bloom: In a late exchange, Louis Bloom recalls Daniel Plainview by threatening his assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed) with the possibility that maybe Bloom doesn’t fail to understand people, he just may not like people. Given the amount of space currently held within the American Cinematic landscape by There Will Be Blood, the comparison is impossible to avoid even before this specific dialogue homage. For example, Louis’s steel fence theft in the opening feels distinctly similar to Plainview’s initial mining exploit, each a small symbol of the lengths that determined and rotten men will go to in order to turn the smallest profit. However, P. T. Anderson’s masterpiece succeeds because it situates Plainview amidst seemingly real people– good, bad, innocent, and very guilty– and observes the ensuing interactions objectively. In comparison, Writer/Director Dan Gilroy has his calculative hand on every contextual character at each turn. When those around Louis earn our alignment (or at least sympathy), they do so only so that we can see Bloom’s rottenness get the best of them. Where There Will Be Blood possesses a pessimism that implores cultural exploration from the viewer, Nightcrawler‘s cynicism feels sneering, cruel, judgmental, and sadistically amused with itself. The entire exercise is one arranged solely to upset the viewer.
Gilroy: It’s clear from the opening, when Louis looks out the window of his cheap car to observe a sports car dealership and a line of ATMs, that Nightcrawler is going to explore a culture driven by material gain. Again, like Plainview’s, Bloom’s sleazy methods are the manifestation of the not-so-illogical conclusion brought about by any economic system that’s driven by poorly-regulated competitive product. As a peripheral point, Gilroy also attempts to measure the messiness of modern (*shudders*) ethics in journalism. Both of these things, in a general sense, are elements of our society worth investigation, but with his eerie and sociopathic central character, Gilroy’s diagnosis paints with such broad brush strokes, his tool of investigation is so sharp and malicious, that his examination is more problematic than the symptom.
Overall: While Nightcrawler possesses stylistic strength and draws a new, impressive high-marker on the wall measurement of Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting ability, the unrelenting narrative cruelty and the over-simplified thematic meditations make this is a tough film to get excited about.