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  Nightcrawler If It Bleeds It Leads
Year: 2014
Director: Dan Gilroy
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton, Michael Hyatt, Kevin Rahm, Ann Cusack, Marco Rodríguez, James Huang, Rick Chambers, Holly Hannula, Eric Lange, Carolyn Gilroy, Price Carson, Jamie McShane, Manuel Lujan, Dig Wayne, Myra Turley
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a man on the make, seeking a career now that his usual occupation of petty theft is starting to pall. Tonight he has just "liberated" some fencing among other metal objects, and beaten up a security guard who confronted him, taking his expensive watch in the process, but for some reason the scrapyard owner who takes the merchandise off his hands won't hire him as an employee, that reason being he doesn't hire thieves. Thus thwarted, Louis ponders his next move and as luck would have it a great idea falls right into his lap: he stumbles across the scene of an accident and notes that there is a cameraman recording the incident to sell the footage to a news channel. It's as if a lightbulb has gone on above Louis's head...

As a state of the world melodrama, writer and director Dan Gilroy, making his first film at the helm after a career of penning scripts, was evidently trying to get his finger on the pulse of the modern media, though whether you agreed with his eventual conclusion that we are living in a society of parasites was very much up to you; you would have to admit he made a very strong case, however. The film only went somewhere near over the top in its latter stages and you'd like to think that he was being farfetched and there were not really individuals who would go to those repellent lengths to gather footage of unfortunates who had been the victims of crime as well as the perpetrators, yet with the media scandals that were still in the news at the time of this work's release, you had to admit Gilroy was on to something.

At the heart of this all was Gyllenhaal, ironically with his weird, almost caricatured performance managing to keep the tone from heading to the cartoonish since he acted as a lightning rod for all the madness that surrounds the character, and indeed is exploited by him. With a lean and hungry look, as the saying goes, a wide, insincere smile you wouldn't trust and eyes disturbingly too big for his face, Louis was a great creation, well worth the potential for sermonising that constantly threatened to turn the film into a stern lecture. Once he has his camcorder and a radio tuned to a police band, he is all set to show up at the scenes of accidents and crimes to gather clips to sell to the news stations, though he chooses to stick with one, the lowest rated.

Perhaps working out that the channel with the fewest viewers are more desperate to pay for what he captures, Bloom feeds into a need for those audiences to believe that they are practically living in a city under a siege of criminality, thereby perversely reassuring them their worst fears are confirmed, that in spite of the fact those crime rates are going down. Since that is the case, the money exchanged for videos of such events is only growing more scarce, yet Bloom is the man of the moment as far as that is concerned pushing his luck further and further and getting away with his utter lack of moral compunction since he is providing a service that is feasting on itself in a vicious circle. Gyllenhaal was the perfect embodiment of that and by the finale you were goaded into accepting the news and those who collect it were nothing less than ghouls.

Not that Gilroy was going to tar every journalist with the same brush, there was a voice of reason in the newsroom, Frank (Kevin Rahm, best known from television's Mad Men) who keeps needling his bosses that the ethics of broadcasting Bloom's finds were shaky at best, nonexistent at worst - and worst is how we regard this. Naturally he is shouted down, particularly by the head of news Nina Romina (Rene Russo in the Faye Dunaway role, proving it pays to be the wife of the director) who when introduced doesn't appear to have questioned her role in this sorry state of affairs in a long time, but when Bloom not only brings her invaluable footage of a mass murder, apparently a home invasion of an innocent family, but tries to seduce her too in a sick power play, her resolve is only bolstered. Also worth mentioning was Bloom's sole employee Rick (Riz Ahmed) a sort of ignored Jiminy Cricket who really needs an income, and Bill Paxton as a rival with a horrible comeuppance in Bloom's bulldozing of decency. It did get contrived, but Gyllenhaal was a skincrawler. Music by James Newton Howard.

[Entertainment One's DVD has a director's commentary and behind the scenes featurette as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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