“All the animals come out at night”- Travis Bickle
That’s a quote from Scorsese’s New York Noir, Taxi Driver, where Travis Bickle drives around the streets condemning the “animals” that come out to play at night. Nightcrawler’s main character uses the media to bring that darkness out into the daytime. In Los Angeles, the media reigns over sunshiny LA in the morning. The news brings the horrors of the night before. The nighttime might as well be a different city. For deranged, and creepily hilarious Lou Bloom, it’s his natural element. He prowls the night bringing us the horrific crimes of the night before into the LA local news circuit. He smiles at his accomplishments as if he’s the king of LA news. It’s this transference of horrific crimes brought to us by a hilarious psycho that creates a bit of satire on our TMZ news fueled culture. Jake Gyllenhaal has been on fire lately. Enemy is still among my top favorites of the year.
First time writer/director Dan Gilroy brings us this satirical hybrid of news and crime. The script has some golden lines and Lou Bloom is its best aspect by far. I wouldn’t call it a character study, but more of a ride along with this gem of a character. The directing is a bit shaky and much less refined than the writing, but that’s expected. Gyllenhaal is the prime reason the film works as well as it does, but I can’t say I fully bought into it. His ability to make standard lines hilarious gives the film a bit of an edge that’s much needed. MY issue is that I was aware he was acting and trying to be this guy at times. The performance didn’t quite feel seamless. With that said, it works far more than it doesn’t. It’s inspired by LA noir’s (though it isn’t quite one) and surprisingly it’s not very stylistic. I never felt that Los Angeles nighttime atmosphere that I adore so much. The music is rather standard and forgettable. I’m surprised this isn’t laced with a killer soundtrack. I was also a bit less enthused with second half of the film because for me it got repetitive in Lou’s goals. I felt as though he would want to do more or have even higher ambitions, which doesn’t quite happen. Maybe it’s because I expected it to keep getting bigger in scale with the news and then around the halfway mark it just sorta coasts to the end on Lou’s late night escapades. Nor did I feel it pushed any thematic ideas further in the second half.
Just one of the many great moments of Lou keeping his cool
Gilroy as a first time director still does solid work with his material. He nails the balance of creepiness and comedy, which is the best and most important aspect. Jake Gyllenhaal nails the material enough but I wish the material was more dense and deranged. It’s a few notches from reaching Patrick Bateman levels of dark comedy. The films engaging moments are found in Lou’s late night escapades as he tries to get his “story” and the simple social interactions that lead to laugh out loud moments. I think it misses some opportunities to do some really interesting stuff thematically. By the 3rd act it gets a bit repetitive and begins to fizzle out, which left me leaving the theater a bit underwhelmed. You should know that I enjoyed it, but most seem to like it more than me. Nightcrawler rides on Gyllenhaal’s performance and a solid script to create a fun ride well worth having at some point.