It’s rare these days for a Hollywood movie to be anything other than a reboot, a remake, or a merchandise tie-in blockbuster, so when something like “Nightcrawler” comes around it’s surprising to see the public not breathing a collective breath of fresh air as they descend on their local cinema en masse.
“Nightcrawler” is a wonderfully constructed film, the performances by the actors, the storyline, and the directing are all first class. The film tells the story of a small-time thief named Louis Bloom (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who whilst trying to make ends meet (by selling stolen goods such as scrap metal) inadvertently stumbles across a traffic accident and realises that cameramen filming such an incident make more money than his current criminal endeavours. As he steals a bike and tries to sell it to a local pawn brokers, he decides to swap it for a camcorder and a police scanner and slowly begins to learn and then muscle his way into the world of freelance cameramen or “Stringers” as they’re known. Louis then hires a down-and-out homeless man Rick (played by Riz Ahmed) to help with his fledgling business and as Louis’ unscrupulous personality comes to the forefront, he begins to make ever increasing amounts of money from filming accidents and crimes around Los Angeles.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives a great performance as Louis Bloom, the likeable but slightly creepy anti-hero. His character sports a weird mixture of likeable and cold, unpleasant personality traits. As the plot unfolds, Louis’ burgeoning mean streak reminds you more and more of a “Tony Manero” or “Taxi Driver” style obsessive, a slightly sociopathic but enthralling character whom you can’t help liking despite his foibles. The film also features the ever reliable Bill Paxton playing Jake’s more professional Stringer rival and Renne Russo is great at playing the corporate-ladder-climbing news director. Whilst on the topic of the supporting cast, it seems that casual and institutional racism is alive and well, I recall Riz Ahmed not really being talked about during the promotion of the film despite him being the obvious “main” supporting actor. His name isn’t even mentioned in Nightcrawler’s main iMDB page (apparently because Riz isn’t “first billed”) surely Rick was an integral character in the film? Aside from Gyllenhaal, Ahmed in my opinion gives one of the best performances in the movie. As an audience member you instantly empathise and feel sorry for Rick, his mannerisms and charisma is slightly reminiscent of Ratso from “Midnight Cowboy”, and that type of amiable sidekick character is instantly enchanting if acted well (and in this case it is). Plus it has to be said Riz delivered a pretty decent Californian accent for a British guy, who knows why his performance is never really mentioned by the mainstream media. Ahmed and the film itself was and still is strangely underrated for my liking, and peculiarly “Nightcrawler” was completely disregarded by the awards shows, it may have been nominated here and there for Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting, but Dan Gilroy’s writing, directing, and Riz Ahmed’s acting was never really given the praise it deserved. Very strange indeed.
Maybe this is because the film has a dig at contemporary news media, and everyone knows that having an opinion isn’t how you attain fame or respect in our society. If like me you enjoy a little social commentary, “Nightcrawler” makes imperative and relevant statements about the power money has in this business, it also highlights the fact that news corporations bend or even re-write the narrative for ratings, it shows the ethical and moral choices journalists (and the paparazzi) make, and it also shows the prostitute-esque way people climb the career ladder.
Overall “Nightcrawler” is a hugely enjoyable film whether you agree or disagree with the sentiments of the script, the movie is entertaining on its own whether you acknowledge or ignore the viewpoint. To me the film is like watching a low-budget flick from the seventies or eighties and Dan Gilroy as writer and director does a great job of crafting a believable drama-slash-thriller with a captivating atmosphere. For once, a contemporary movie has a good sense of pace and Gilroy in my opinion is especially good at coaxing memorable performances from all the actors involved. For his first time directing, “Nightcrawler” is pretty awesome, it’s great to see an original and entertaining film these days… very impressive indeed.