Nightcrawler ****

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Who would of thought a film about freelance journalists who spend their nights gathering gruesome video for newstations could result in such a tense thriller. These guys are the basis for “Nightcrawler” starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhall plays Louis Bloom, a seriously unhinged thief who stumbles upon this lucrative business almost by accident. Louis is a sociopathic loner who spends his nights stealing copper and selling them to construction sites. We get our first glimpse of his focused personality when he applies for a job at the site he just sold stolen goods to. He recites his qualities in an oddly intense fashion before being told that they can’t hire a thief.

One night Louis happens upon a brutal car crash. This is where he first sees a freelance camera man shootings video up close. This gives him the idea to get his own camera and chase down accidents and crimes on his own so he can film them send sell them to a local news station. When his footage of the aftermath of a car jacking is seen by Nina, a news director, she buys it and asks for more. She is drawn to how close to the gore he got and wants to use the footage to shock and absorb the viewers.

Eventually Louis gets too good at his job. He is able to arrive upon scenes long before the police can. At one point he arrives at a car accident and moves the corpse a ways to get a more appealing shot. When he shows up at a reported home invasion he manages to capture footage of the the asailants as they are exiting the house. Louis then enters and films the dead bodies left in the house. At this point it becomes a legal and moral decision by the news station as to whether or not they can show the footage. When they do, the police show up at Louis house to question him.

“Nightcrawler” was written and directed by Dan Gilroy. Gilroy has mostly been a writer until now. On the basis of this film he is a hell of a director. He shoots everything in a style that reminded me of great thrillers like “Thief” and “Drive”. He develops his own visual style that shows the city of Los Angeles, where the film takes place, in a way that feels gritty yet dream like. This film begs to be seen on the big screen.

The final act of the film alone is a masterpiece. After Louis is able to manipulate a situation he manages to have the police catch up to the home invasion suspects in a public restaurant. The results are shocking and violence. The lead up is suspenseful. Brian De Palma would of been proud. The resulting car chase is fresh and thrilling. I can’t wait to see this director’s follow up movie.

As Bloom, Gyllenhaal brings to life a character who masks his dark insanity with the face of an eager professional hunger to make a name for himself. It is a challenging role that Gyllenhaal takes on effortlessly. I wonder if he had a hard time shutting this character down when it was time go to home.

Rene Russo plays Nina, the station agent that Louis sells to exclusively. Nina is just as ruthless as Louis. Louis eventually blackmails her in to a sexual relationship which Nina almost admires due to his shocking proposal. Bill Paxton also shows up as another Nightcrawler who has been in the business for years. He adds a veteran presence and ads a different dimension that only Paxton can deliver.

“Nightcrawler” is an incredible film. Like I said, it needs to be seen on the big screen. It is shot as a big thriller. It is tense, exciting, dramatic and original.

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