Review: NIGHTCRAWLER (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Review: NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)

4 stars
4 stars
Dan Gilroy's debut feature on NIGHTCRAWLER is largely taut and engaging thriller boosted with Jake Gyllenhaal's career-high performance.


First garnered attention at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, NIGHTCRAWLER marks Dan Gilroy's feature debut as a director after spending decades working as a screenwriter for movies like 1992's FREEJACK (his writing debut), 2011's REAL STEEL and 2012's THE BOURNE LEGACY. The result is an incredible piece of work that I'm glad to see this critically-acclaimed movie manages to make it into our local cinemas.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a petty thief who steals scrap metal to make money. A highly determined and persistent person, he's been trying to look for steady job, but can't seem to land one. Then one night, he stumbles upon a car accident on the highway where a seasoned freelance videographer named Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) arrives on the scene and started recording as much footage as he can. After finally decided the kind of work he is interested to do, he steals an expensive bike the next day and pawns it for a consumer-grade camcorder and police scanner to start working as freelance videographer. Although he begins his job as an amateur, he proves to be a quick learner and hardworking enough to improve his videography skill as he continues capturing footage of a crime scene, accident or anything related to violence. He subsequently sells his footage to a local TV news station run by Nina (Rene Russo), a struggling news director who doesn't mind breaking boundaries as long as she is able to achieve good ratings.

THE GOOD STUFF
 
Although this is the first time Dan Gilroy tackles a directing gig, he has certainly proven his worth like a seasoned pro with sharp direction. Together with his brother John Gilroy, who works as an editor here in this movie, the pace is mostly snappy enough to keep you interested. The screenplay, which also written by Dan Gilroy himself, is an intriguing blend of pitch-black satire and thought-provoking narrative structure that explores voyeurism (shades of 1960's PEEPING TOM and 1966's BLOW-UP), social degradation (1976's TAXI DRIVER) and cutthroat world of network television (1976's NETWORK).

Robert Elswit's nighttime cinematography on the Los Angeles neon-drenched streetscapes is brilliantly captured with wide-angle lens, while James Newton Howard's score is both moody and dramatic enough to give this movie a distinctive neo-noir feel.

At the heart of the movie is Jake Gyllenhaal, who gives an outstanding yet award-worthy performance to date as Lou Bloom. From his shockingly gaunt appearance (reportedly he lost 20 pounds for his role) to the way he delivers his speech pattern in an edgy and manipulative manner as well as making great use of his signature bug-eyed expression, Gyllenhaal truly committed to his role with such enthusiasm. In fact, his character as an obsessive loner and a deranged sociopath reminds me of Carl Boehm's role as Mark Lewis in PEEPING TOM and of course, two of Robert De Niro's memorable performances as Travis Bickle in TAXI DRIVER and Rupert Pupkin in 1983's THE KING OF COMEDY.

Apart from Gyllenhaal's standout performance, the supporting cast is equally captivating as well. Despite already pushing 60 years of age, Rene Russo remains as stunning as ever, while her role as the desperate but ruthless TV news director Nina is one of her best performances ever seen in a long while. Riz Ahmed is perfectly cast as Lou's inexperienced and nervy intern Rick, while Bill Paxton delivers an effective performance as Lou's rival cameraman Joe Loder.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)
 
The intense verbal argument between Lou and Nina in the Mexican restaurant; the price negotiation scene between Lou and Nina in the TV station; and the breathtaking car-chase finale through the nighttime streets of Los Angeles.

THE BAD STUFF
  
Some of the scenes tend to feel heavy-handed and slack off a bit.

FINAL WORDS

Although NIGHTCRAWLER is far from a pitch-perfect movie that I expected it to be, this compelling yet darkly funny thriller still qualifies as one of the best movies of the year.

* This review is written courtesy from GSC press screening *

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