By William Wolf

TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL 2014--NIGHTCRAWLER  Send This Review to a Friend

In “Nightcrawler,” shown at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, first-time director Dan Gilroy, who also wrote the screenplay, presents a sleazebag petty thief who hits on an idea than can make him somebody. In addition to offering a searing portrait of the protagonist, the film becomes a vehicle to expose the ruthlessness of television news in thriving on sensationalism in the competitive quest for ratings.

Jake Gyllenhaal nails the character of Lou Bloom perfectly. One night in Los Angeles Bloom happens to come across an accident and is fascinated watching free-lance TV news photographers scrambling to get the most vivid footage they can. He is intrigued and figures it would be cool to get in on the business. He manages to get a video camera and a police scanner that will enable him to follow the action.

He is frowned upon as a newcomer, but sure enough, he obtains footage that he is able to sell to a TV station low in the ratings. He deals with an excellent Rene Russo as Nina, a no-nonsense producer who comes to rely on him for good stuff. A nervy manipulator, Bloom not only makes a play for Nina, but soon demands that she give him sex in exchange for the increasingly hot footage she needs under the pressure she is under to keep her job. Russo makes a sharp impression in the role, as Nina tries to handle the savvy, offensive Bloom, who is somewhat attractive just because of his brashness and determination even though he is bad news.

Bloom hires a naïve assistant played by Riz Ahmed to help him navigate the Los Angeles neighborhoods. He pays him peanuts, but dangles promises that keep him on a string. The constant abuse and exploitation make one feel sorry for this hapless sidekick amid a feeling that all will end badly for him.

Eventually, as you might expect, Bloom goes too far, manipulating a suburban killing that provides him bloody footage when he arrives before the police and prowls the house to film the victims. He holds back footage that enables him to identify the killers, with a deadly scheme of his own for an even greater payback than the sale of the initial footage.

The film maintains a film noir mood, giving us a creepy look at exploitative contemporary television local news, as well as a city in which violence is rampant, whether accidental or deliberate. You may want Bloom, cruelly self-serving to the end, to get what he deserves. But don’t count on it. Reviewed October 19, 2014


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