Review: Jake Gyllenhaal is the Nightcrawler
Directed by Dan Gilroy ★★★★1/2
Part Travis Bickle, part Ratso Rizzo, part Patrick Bateman, Hollywood may just have found its new anti-hero.
Meet Lou Bloom - a motor-mouthed entrepreneur adept at stealing, and selling almost anything - especially himself.
As portrayed by a gaunt looking Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain), who lost around 10 kilograms for the role, Bloom is a terrifying spectre who won't take no for an answer.
When we first meet him in Nightcrawler, he's hawking purloined copper wire and manhole covers to pay the bills. But while, as he says, "working for myself is in line with my skills and career goals", he has much higher ambitions.
A chance encounter with a horrific road accident provides an unlikely spark and inspiration. Observing and then chatting to the video camera operator (Bill Paxton) arriving on the scene at the same time as him, he discovers that the footage is sold to the highest bidding station - and that they'll pay big money for compelling coverage. Investing his meagre funds in a basic camcorder and police scanner, Bloom begins learning the trade the only way he knows how - trial and error.
Compelling and chilling in equal measure, writer Dan Gilroy's (Freejack, Real Steel) directorial debut is an examination of modern day maladies that even Martin Scorsese in his prime would be proud of.
As well as Bloom himself (superbly realised by a virtually unblinking, lizard-like Gyllenhaal), Nightcrawler's neon-soaked nightmare vision of contemporary Los Angeles is filled with characters all chasing their own twisted version of the American Dream and in this case trying to fuel and sate the general population's fears and desires.
Most notably this comes in the form of Rene Russo (Ransom - and the wife of Gilroy), who as the television producer on the "vampire shift" at KWLA6 - the worst rating station in LA - knows that the old adage of "if it bleeds it leads" doesn't cut it any more, it has to be something that could directly affect the middle and upper classes of society (like urban crime creeping into the suburbs).
Like Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, this is a superbly paced, evocatively scored (by The Dark Knight's James Newton Howard) tale which seems like a throwback to the down and dirty thrillers of the 1970s and early 1980s (Taxi Driver, Death Wish, To Live and Die in LA), but also feels fresh and vital.
Nightcrawler is out tomorrow