Jake Gyllenhaal Returns To His Sociopathic Roots In The Gripping News Thriller, Nightcrawler.

Nightcrawler.
Director: Dan Gilroy,
Writers: Dan Gilroy.
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Michael Papajohn.
Playing At: Wide.

It's been a really great month for sociopaths in cinema.

First, Amy Dunne sliced and diced her way through a man's ego in Gone Girl. Then Birdman’s Riggan Thompson showed just how breakable the human psyche can be. Oh, and Nic Cage starred in the Left Behind reboot and not as a joke.

Now, con artist Louis Bloom is caressing his way up the news chain with smooth-tongued threats and skewed determination in Dan Gilroy's really fucked up but also really gripping directorial debut, Nightcrawler.

Here, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Louis Bloom — a real go-getter who's trying to find his place in the world. And, currently, that place means him being a criminal. When we first meet him, he's snipping fence off a construction site so he can sell it to another construction site. He also beats up the security guard for his watch. So, from the beginning, we know that Bloom is a real troublemaker. We just don’t know how far he's willing to take things.

Well, not yet.

See, here's the thing about this Bloom fellow. He's smart. He wants more than petty thievery for his full-time gig. And when an opportunity of a lifetime literally zips by him on the road, he follows it, tracking a news van to a scene of a horrifying accident. As he watches, a cameraman (Bill Paxton) and his crew film the wreck — and we know exactly what Bloom is thinking just by looking at his hungry eyes. Yup. He can do that.

And how: Bloom learns that he can make some pretty good money selling crime footage to local news stations. So he gets a cheap camera and a police scanner, learns the L.A. law codes and gets to work. At first, he fumbles. But he reads, studies and learns the trade, and the money starts pouring in. Also increasing? The number of dubious activities he'll engage in if it means getting a shot.

Oh, and remember when I said he's a troublemaker? Well, I wasn't lying. As his equipment gets bigger and badder, he gets darker and more sinister. If there's good money to be found in a crime scene, Bloom will even go so far as to move the body to get it.

Good thing Gyllenhaal knows well by now how to play crazy. Over the years, various roles have demanded the actor really lose himself on screen. Donnie Darko, The Good Girl and Enemy, the criminally under-seen mind-fuck from earlier this year, all showcase this skill set rather well. But Nightcrawler might just feature the craziest, creepiest and, we concede, coolest sonofabitch that Gyllenhaal has played on screen yet. Not since Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates has an actor delivered a sociopath so straight-faced and frightening. More impressive? Gyllenhaal makes it look so easy, so calm — and, yes, so good.

That's the thing about his Bloom: He has no filter, no fear and no expression. His portrayal will chill you to the bone. And you won't be able to look away.

Another commendable thing about the film? How timeless it looks. Sure, it's set in modern times, but the beat-to-hell car Bloom drives when we first meet him has an old dusty tape player from the '80s in it. His laptop, meanwhile, looks like a first-generation product from the '90s. Same for his camera. Of course, as time passes, Bloom conforms to technology somewhat. This, in particular, is an interesting gambit employed by first-time director Dan Gilroy, who also wrote the screenplay for this film. It's possible you've seen films adapted from Gilroy's scripts before — the most notable among them being The Bourne Legacy — but none of those other efforts have come close to Nightcrawler, which is such a gripping film that I already can't wait for his sophomore followup.

Of course, Gyllenhaal deserves significant nods for driving this one along, too: In a month filled with sociopathic leads, his is arguably the most compelling.

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