DVD: Nightcrawler (2014)

February 12, 2015 | By

 

Nightcrawler2014Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Standard

Label: Elevation Pictures

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  February 10, 2015

Genre:  Drama / Black Comedy

Synopsis: A socially challenged quick study finds his ideal calling is a late night shooter, filming and eventually manipulating gruesome accidents and crime scenes for a third-rate L.A. news channel.

Special Features:  Featurette: “If it Bleeds, it Leads: Making Nightcrawler” (5 mins.)

 

 


 

Review:

 

Dan Gilroy’s tale of Lou Bloom, a sleazy after hours cameraman who races to traumatic scenes to shoot gory footage of dead / dying victims of car crashes, gunplay, or home invasions has some trouble settling into a specific tone; it never matures into a suspense drama, action film, or black comedy, but what grounds Nightcrawler is Jake Gyllenhaal, who dropped serious pounds and looks like a starving, wide-eyed rodent – the kind of nocturnal sleazebag you’d expect to see sitting in his car, tracking police radio reports, waiting to film the imminent carnage that’ll bring him thousands of dollars and a sexy new set of ENG gear.

Bloom is a huckster; he’s able to snatch props, restyle himself, and through persistent bragging and bullshitting, he eventually gets lucky and inserts himself into a profession he rapidly realizes he was born to excel and thrive. He’s a liar, an opportunist, and a manipulator who uses innocent victims as props to recompose scenes to suit his visual scheme, and it’s only natural he advances to staging events that cause further carnage at a time and place of his design, caught with a two-camera setup.

An equivalent story of an emerging master manipulator is Jan Egelson’s Shock to the System (1990), in which a hen-pecked husband kills his mouthy wife, and then realizes he can use his gift for staging and manipulating events and people to further his goal to become a corporate chief. Shock’s career-hungry villain is amusing, a little lovable, dry, darkly verbose, and he quickly assesses himself as a modern magician, whereas Bloom is crude around the edges, less deft and socially inept, yet through plenty of teasing and bullying, he entices the news director of a third-rate station to keep him on retainer, and engage a gullible kid as his personal assistant / navigator / impromptu valet parking attendant with faux promises of a possible permanent career spot in his ‘company.’

Two flawed character designs stand out in Gilroy’s script. It’s a bit tough to believe Bloom and news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo) can tumble into a sexual / professional relationship (there’s a sense Gilroy shot but later excised scenes from the final cut, since their union moves from Romina’s outright rejection to an almost stealth acknowledgement by Bloom in a heated bargaining match); and assistant Rick (Dead Set’s Riz Ahmed) may be the most gullible intern in the city, working two months for a paltry $30 / night, and never suspecting he’s being conned as slave labour, even after Bloom upgrades from a shit box hatchback to a sleek red performance roadster so the pair can race faster than rival camera crews to a news scene.

Gilroy’s plotting also gets a little wayward around the hour mark: the film downshifts to a less intense plain after Bloom becomes an established shooter; and the seeding of details culminating in the finale aren’t hard to spot, especially to those familiar with the bad cop / master manipulator figure in Mike Figgis’ corrupt cop suspenser Internal Affairs (1990).

In the DVD’s making-of featurette (the lone extra on this bare bones disc), Gilroy describes Bloom as an extreme version of a kid raised on the internet rather than human interaction, lacking any empathy for anything except the lone plant in his dark apartment; Gyllenhaal regards Bloom as a coyote – a creature seen only when it’s just killed, or is poised to kill.

Gilroy’s film is bolstered by a fine cast of character actors, great cinematography by Robert Elswit (Boogie Nights, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), and sharp editing from twin brother John Gilroy. Brother Tony Gilroy also co-produced, and all three siblings had previous collaborated in various forms on the Bourne franchise. The Gilroys also seemed aware that eschewing the ADD editing of The Bourne Supremacy (2004) ensured their car chases would be snappy, believable, and coherent.

James Newton Howard’s score is very low key, frequently bleeding in and out of scenes, and his reliance on bass tones and ambient material evoke that weird period in the early morning hours when there’s no sense of time or place – just a feeling you’re trapped in a nightmare world for an undetermined period.

 

 

© 2015 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack AlbumSoundtrack Review — Composer Filmography
 
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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