Nightcrawler (2014)
October 31, 2014 12:40 PM - Subscribe

Nightcrawler tells the story of Lou, a dark character doing whatever he can to get ahead in modern Los Angeles. Lou finds his calling when he stumbles across a camera crew recording a graphic traffic accident. He is introduced to the world of freelance crime journalism, where if it bleeds it leads. The film is the directorial debut of Dan Gilroy and features a transformative performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.

The film is reviewing positively, although some critics are more sold than others. From metacritic:
100% from Empire Online, In Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle thirsts for justice. In The King Of Comedy, Rupert Pupkin craves celebrity. Both are deranged loners who go to obscene lengths to achieve their warped ideas of The American Dream. And in Nightcrawler’s Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) we find, more than 30 years later, the spiritual younger brother to these iconic Scorsese/De Niro creations: another dark-roaming misfit with malformed ambitions.

80% from The Guardian, From a subdued start Nightcrawler unfurls into a ghoulish and wickedly funny satire on journalism, the job market and self-help culture. Lou is a retro creation: a strange, real character lurking in a moral grey area. Gyllenhaal, slimmed down and bug-eyed, looks like Nosferatu, but has the manic vulnerability of Andy Kaufman. Lou’s like a Wes Anderson character who’s ambition has warped into a realm of violent sociopathy.

60% from the NYT, As his business starts to grow, Lou tangles with rivals and hires a wide-eyed sidekick (Riz Ahmed), all the while explaining himself in the jargon of management and self-help. He is a fast learner, and his amoral zeal causes him to evolve from eager voyeur into something much worse. His earnest belief in himself is both funny and dismaying, and his complete indifference to ethical boundaries makes for some slightly guilty fun. But nothing much beyond that. “Nightcrawler” is a slick and shallow movie desperate, like Lou himself, to be something more.
posted by codacorolla (21 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I had the pleasure of viewing this film at an AMPAS theater a few weeks ago, and then watching Jake Gyllenhaal, Dan Gilroy, Renee Russo, and two more Gilroy brothers (Editor and Executive Producer, I believe) do a panel discussion afterwards. The one really fantastic insight from the panel interview was Gyllenhaal's characterization of Lou Bloom as a coyote. The way he leans out, and has that hunched, starving, desperate posture and attitude, and also the Trickster characterization, all of that is based on Gyllenhaal's understanding of coyote lore and nature. Putting Lou into that context really helped me see the character in the right light.

And boy, what a character! It was difficult for me, at first, to not see Lou Bloom as a straight-up sociopath. I mean, that fucking restaurant scene, Oh My Ugh! At first glance, the movie seems to be just a vehicle for the exploration of the sociopathic white male as it fits within Los Angeles newscasting (a vicious extremity of regular newscasting). But I think you can step outside that and consider the movie from the perspective of it being a success story. In that light, it's a delightful twist on the traditional success story, on top of your Oscar-worthy acting performance/sociopathic character study.

This is a total side-rail, but watching a film at an AMPAS theater, with like 100 other people who were there strictly to watch the film—as opposed to being there for the concessions or on the phone the whole time or with screaming, fidgeting children—was a wonderful film-going experience. Highly recommended, should you have the opportunity.
posted by carsonb at 5:37 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

I got a free screening on my campus two weeks ago, and I've been itching to talk about this with anyone! I'm happy that it's finally seen a wide release.

That coyote thing makes total sense in retrospect. I was amazed at Gyllenhaal's performance, even given my respect for him as an actor.

RE: The success story aspect, I was surprised to find myself rooting for Lou! Every time he was within the possibility of getting caught I found myself thinking "do it Lou!" Which is strange, because Lou is an abjectly terrible person.

Lou is a cipher, and I think can represent a lot of different things. At the very least, he's the logical conclusion of the boot-strapped, self made man. Absent any human support or context Lou finds his way up by stealing, assaulting and cheating. The most obvious aspect of this is the current job market for the young, Ricardo being the primary example, where someone pretending to a position of authority is able to exploit economic vulnerability to get others to do whatever he wants. At times it felt almost too on the nose, but I thought that as a dark comedy this works perfectly.

One thing I was unsure of was how "real" the story is supposed to be. One thing that I picked up on is that right before Lou begins his meteoric (maybe that should be volcanic to not mix metaphors) ascent he sees a documentary about wolves, and a commercial for frozen vegetables on TV. Right as we reach an unbelievable point in the third act (the police coming to question the news crew) and Lou skates that same set of images is shown on the monitors. In Taxi Driver, which it seems this is referring to on most levels, there's clear steps taken to show that Deniro's character is having a fantasy in act 3... I was wondering if this might be pointing to something similar, or if it was just a sort of symmetry in visuals.
posted by codacorolla at 5:47 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Lou was just creepy as fuck. I saw this with a group of women friends and we were just crawling under our seats during the restaurant scenes with Rick and Nina. Nina seemed like what Lou would become, she was a horrible person too.

Loved the rest of the cast, the woman detectives face when he opened the door for them was amazing. She conveyed so much background and intent in half a second.

The only slightly jarring parts to me were a few short scenes in Lou's apartment when he's alone being weird. Those seemed to belong in another movie, maybe mulholland drive or something. They had a dated, 90s indie flick vibe.
posted by fshgrl at 1:31 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh oh! The other thing I ABSOLUTELY LOVED about this film was the way it portrayed Los Angeles. It did LA at night even better than Collateral, which to me is sayin' somethin'.
posted by carsonb at 1:23 PM on November 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

It had some real LA news anchors too, right? I thought I recognized them.
posted by fshgrl at 9:23 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yep! And it was confirmed that they read the entire script before agreeing to participate. Nightcrawler does not exactly give LA local news a pass, but they signed on anyway and apparently thought it was great.
posted by carsonb at 8:38 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

This was a great film and one of the best if not the best I've seen this year. I really appreciated that it didn't give the audience the usual Hollywood ending where certain troublesome plot points get tidied up.

For example, in final act I was dreading to hear a couple of things which really would have killed the movie for me: first, that Lou had flamed out of a promising career in the corporate world because of some bad behavior owing to his having Asperger syndrome. Second, that he had somehow [spoiler warning] planted the drugs in the house where the home invasion occurred and thus had purposely instigated the whole mess. When the final credits started rolling I walked out relieved that neither of those things happened.

Shallow comment: was Rene Russo deliberately made up to seem older because if not, I don't think she's aging well for someone in her line of work. She usually has a femme fatale look but in this movie I thought she came across as "rode hard, put up wet", especially in some of those harsh close-ups.

Surely Jake Gyllenhaal will get an Oscar nomination for this role.
posted by fuse theorem at 4:51 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Surely Jake Gyllenhaal will get an Oscar nomination for this role.

This got a big, well-attended feature at the AMPAS. I think it's up for several awards including Best Actor.

was Rene Russo deliberately made up to seem older

Yep! She might even be wearing a prosthetic? (Best Supporting?) She is still Hollywood lovely in person.
posted by carsonb at 5:06 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Through the Lens Glass: ‘Nightcrawler’ Filmmaker Dan Gilroy on Car Chases, Screenwriting, and the Internet’s Latchkey Kids
“I’ve worked on quite a few studio films,” Gilroy says, “and there’s one narrative rule you must never break — and it’s been going on since they made the first silent film. If somebody does something wrong they need to be punished. Good needs to triumph, and evil needs to be punished. And as much as I would like that to be the case, that’s not the world we live in. Good people, moral people, get exploited, and people who are amoral and maladjusted and willing to leave their humanity at the door are thriving. I wanted to break that narrative rule because I felt like breaking that narrative rule, but I also wanted people to feel uncomfortable at the end of this film.”
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:27 PM on November 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

That's a very Wolf of Wall Street approach, then.

I just saw this tonight, what a treat. I live quite close to several of the key scenes, so that was a little distracting, but also cool. I thought the use of the clip from The Court Jester was really interesting, it's one of my favorite films so I recognized it immediately. I can see some parallels, The Court Jester is about a troupe actor who gets roped into this whole court intrigue thing and ends up swordfighting and being knighted but is usually more of a lucky pawn than a self-made man. The clip used was a comical battle between the actor and a real, sturdy knight. They're both movies about outsiders pretending to be something they're not but I had trouble determining if there was any deeper meaning going on.

Anyways, what a thrilling film.
posted by JauntyFedora at 11:17 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

‘Nightcrawler’ and the new face of entitlement
”Comparing “Nightcrawler” to “Network” or Lou to Travis Bickle does not quite make sense: the movie is not really just about the news business, and Lou is not a delusional loser. Instead, he is a perfect example of what entitlement looks like, and the ways in which it can act as a superpower.
posted by FJT at 4:53 PM on November 11, 2014

Although much of the action is implausible and we already know that local news is dominated by sensationalism and fear-mongering, as a satire of what it takes to lift yourself up and get ahead, of a modern day success story, this is terrific. Guy starts out offering to work a shit job as an intern, later uses that brand of empty promise to enlist a weak homeless person as his assistant, and in the end, despite the horrors he has he engaged in to reach this place, he is pitching the same spiel to wide-eyed middle-class white college kids. And it's not just those trying to get their foot in the door who are open to exploitation, the person we first think to hold the power, the producer played by Russo, is shown to be just as vulnerable and desperate.

was Rene Russo deliberately made up to seem older

She's 60. She is older. And she looks to be doing fine.
posted by TimTypeZed at 11:45 AM on November 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

was Rene Russo deliberately made up to seem older

She's 60. She is older. And she looks to be doing fine.

I had a pretty good idea what her age was going in. After the movie I googled it to make sure I was in the ballpark. So what I meant was, I thought she looked older than her real age and older than she ordinarily seems when she makes public appearances on TV.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:52 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Guy starts out offering to work a shit job as an intern, later uses that brand of empty promise to enlist a weak homeless person as his assistant

I found his initial interview with Rick really interesting in how it added another (streetwise) shade to Lou's personality. He seems oblivious to so much about people's lives but when he's grilling Rick about his current situation, the little exchange where he asks "You trick?" and Rick's like, "No, I'm straight!" and Lou waves it off with something like "Yeah, well, people do what they gotta do." ...that was eye-opening.
posted by psoas at 10:47 AM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I think this was a best actor oscar performance, and a well made flick. Highly recommended.
posted by Catblack at 3:07 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Top 10 films of 2014: Nightcrawler - "We reach the number one spot in our writers' selection of 2014's finest films. Here's why Nightcrawler made the top of the list..."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:37 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Really shocked it didn't get the best actor Oscar nod... one of my films of the year
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:53 AM on January 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

That opening scene was a knockout. I swear I could hear Billy Wilder applauding it from heaven.

Genuinely gutted that Riz Ahmed and Rene Russo didn't get nods, they both did fine work. And has anyone noted how awesomely terrifying the car chases were?
posted by Gin and Broadband at 12:59 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

For the first third of the movie, I was kind of annoyed by the score -- it seemed kind of maladroit and hyper on-the-nose, like the worst of Murray Gold on the new Doctor Who series -- but by the mid-film, it was obvious that it's a deliberate riff on the whole satirical part of it. It's kind of amazingly inappropriate; sweeping synth accompanying Lou when he does even the shittiest things, like the soundscape from an '80s movie where a kid with one leg goes on to lead the team to the pennant dropped like a ton of bricks on this exploration of a super creep bein' super creepy.

After a day of thinking about it, I think it's Lou's soundtrack -- we rarely see what's behind that rictus facade of his, but the score tips us off to the fact that he's sincerely loony, and thinks that this is his greatest escapade ever. Like the director handed the finished movie off to the character and said "score this," and he applied his weird diligence to making the best score he could for what he perceives as a grand adventure.

I thought it was a fantastic movie, but I'm not too upset by Gyllenhaal not getting an Oscar nomination -- the Super Creep slot had been filled by Carell, and it's not like there was a lot of range on display here; Carell arguably had to go to a lot more places in Foxcatcher, and I think probably had a more challenging role in a less-good movie than Nightcrawler. I still think Keaton shoulda won.
posted by Shepherd at 11:18 AM on June 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

I agree with the New York Times review (the last one quoted by the OP) and this critical Slate review. A fun movie if you just want an hour and a half of excitement, but nothing more profound than that. I don't see what's so great about Gyllenhaal's one-note performance. I think he did his job effectively, but the direction and writing prevented his character from having much nuance or depth. Also, the brief romantic angle seemed thrown in and would have been better left out.
posted by John Cohen at 5:45 PM on May 16, 2017

The Gilroy brothers are superbly talented and stylistically tight - I return to watch many of their films again and again
posted by growabrain at 2:39 PM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

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