It was clear after seeing Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler (Open Road, 10.31) a few weeks ago that it’s a real American original — a thriller about sensation and speed and indifference to anything except for the rush and the pay and the next calamity…”if it bleeds, it leads.” It’s about Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a fiendishly focused video-shooting nut who peddles footage to a KTLA-like TV station and in particular a certain news producer (Rene Russo) whom he has…uhm, designs upon. A drill-bit smart guy who knows how to suck up to those who can give him what he wants and not the slightest hesitation about cutting off his competitors at the knees, Lou is all glare, exactitude and cold calculus. A kind of monster, for sure, which is why Nightcrawler might be a perfect Halloween movie after all. It’s certainly unlike any other “Halloween movie” that will be debuting on the 10.31 to 11.2 weekend.
Following last night’s screening of Nightcrawler at Real D (l to r.): director-writer Dan Gilroy, star Jake Gyllenhaal, producer Tony Gilroy.
On top of which I realized during last night’s Real D screening in Beverly Hills that Nightcrawler played a bit cleaner, smarter and stronger than it did during the Toronto Film Festival. Partly because I was more rested last night (festivals deplete your energy after the fourth or fifth day — you start to look and think like a zombie) and partly because I’m always slow with any Gilroy brothers film. Dan directed and wrote but Tony Gilroy (director-cowriter with Dan of The Bourne Legacy, director-writer of Michael Clayton) produced, and John Gilroy edited.
It always takes me a while to fully wake up to Gilroy material. I was initially between impressed and mixed positive on Michael Clayton (’07), which was directed and written by Tony Gilroy. It took me a month or so to realize it was one of the landmark films of the 21st Century. I’ve seen it at least nine or ten times since. I was totally down with Nightcrawler after catching at Toronto’s Elgin, but it kicked up a couple of notches last night. Lean, toned, zero fat. Now I really like it as opposed to just being an admirer, etc.
Here’s what I said on 9.6.14: “Nightcrawler is a chilly, highly original urban psychodrama about a beyond-creepy sociopathic news video shooter who fits right in. The brazen, reckless, manic-wacko quality of Nightcrawler is what makes it cool and cultish — I was fascinated, appalled, thrilled. It’s strikingly soul-less, cold, creepy…and quite respectable for that.
“It’s a news-video thriller with ice in its veins. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a modern-day antithesis of Travis Bickle…on adderall. An uber-sociopath, triple creepy, manic and very, very controlling. And yet Bickle had a lot of soul and sadness while Gyllenhaal’s cranked madman hasn’t a kernel of common humanity. And that’s cool in a sense. Lou is definitely a character you’ve never seen before. His strangeness is something to hold onto and be fascinated by. Gyllenhaal’s commitment is absolute — he even dropped 20 pounds so he’d seem more hard-wired and pop-eyed.
“Nightcrawler is a little Ace in the Hole-ish in Act Three but before that it’s almost a kind of zombie film. A control freak crossed with a scarily determined Eddie Haskell. In the superb final act Gilroy makes us complicit and partners-in-crime in Gyllenhaal’s mania to get the hot footage — a fascinating effect. The film may not work for everyone but for those with a taste for the dark and entertainingly bizarre, bingo.”
Team Nightcrawler is not afraid of “the Halloween thing,” a friend explained a few weeks ago. “The paradigm can be broken. We’re not gonna sell Nightcrawler with pumpkins.” On top of which “the film is dark,” he said, “[and] it’s not dissonant with Halloween.”
But “the idiots with their shorts, flip-flops and toenail fungus don’t know from Toronto,” I wrote. “All they know is that Nightcrawler is one of the X-Men. But I suppose that even this crowd will eventually realize that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in their philosophies.”