Featuring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton
Director/screenwriter: Dan Gilroy
Movie website: www.nightcrawlermovie.com.au/
Australian release date: Thu 27 Nov
Verdict: Based on a premise of great potential that is not fully realised, but an absorbing thriller nevertheless.
Sensationalist tabloid TV news thrives on blood-and-guts and celebrity. Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) obliges with both in his newly chosen career as a “nightcrawler” (crime and catastrophe photo-journalist), scouring the roads and suburbs of nocturnal LA in the hope of arriving at a grisly murder or accident site before his competitors – and ideally, the cops. Having impressed and secured the backing of TV news director Nina (Rene Russo) through persistent self-promotion and footage of ratings-grabbing carnage, he produces scoop after bloody scoop, quickly establishing a reputation within the industry, and graduating from lone wolf to director of his own company.
Lou gains an edge over other nightcrawlers by manipulating and sometimes initiating crime scenes, like an evil, hidden horror movie director with a real-life cast of dead and maimed trauma victims, cops and paramedics. With his phenomenally sustained run of spectacular first-on-scene splatter footage, his acclaim grows exponentially and he creates his own celebrity.
The tremendously compelling premise that powers the narrative promises much but doesn’t quite deliver. While a gaunt, bug-eyed Gyllenhaal does well in the lead role, his character’s psychopathology renders him morally one-dimensional, immune to the ethical dilemmas inherent in his gore-peddling work; a socially responsible character might have offered more dramatic potential in grappling with the morality of his position.
Further, in making the psychopathic Lou the primary focus, the filmmakers have missed the opportunity to broaden the philosophical scope of the film. The premise afforded an opportunity to illuminate the ethical twilight zone occupied by today’s tabloid media organisations and the news gatherers that feed them – and perhaps to consider the cultural implications of the rapacious audience demand for their product.
Nevertheless, Nightcrawlers is an absorbing and at times high-octane thriller with the power to shock. Worth a look.
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