Exclusive Nightcrawler review – Sadists at work?

nightcrawler3I’d like to think there’s nobody in real life matching Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in Nightcrawler (2014).  I’d like to think that nobody can be so morally empty and devoid of consciousness.  I think he has honed his neurotic character from Zodiac, and takes it to a whole new level here.  His performance has been compared to De Niro in Taxi Driver, one of the most iconic performances ever, and that’s high praise.  Gyllenhaal controls the screen in the same way, but instead of performing for the mirror, he destroys his and wrecks havoc on other people.

I’m not sure why, but Gyllenhaal can play the obsessive-compulsive weirdo at the drop of a hat.  He is very dark.  The character has a lot of rage building inside of him, which we don’t see visually, except in one scene where he screams at a mirror and punches it.  He is a person who desperately wants work, desperately wants acceptance and success, and comes close to doing anything to get it. He films horrible crimes and accidents to sell to a news outlet. The character doesn’t get as far as CAUSING the crimes to get great footage, but he comes close.

nightcrawler1 Gyllenhaal plays Louis with an edge.  We chuckle at his fake smile and laugh at his stupid business motto.  He is fake.  We see he is fake.  Nobody else does though, possibly because nobody else is willing to do what he does.  He gets the news footage nobody else wants to get and does his job very well.  He is a sadist.  He likes what he does.  The news enjoys buying his footage and helping their ratings.  It’s a sadism free-for-all.

Louis sells his for-hire footage to Rene Russo’s character, Nina.  She is a tough lady, but she’s defenseless against Louis.  He asks her to dinner with a wry smile and a stupid speech, but she goes anyway.  He tells her he wants her and is going to have her, but she doesn’t leave immediately.  Nina is as addicted to sensationalism as much as Louis is, perhaps even more so.  She hunches forward in the TV control room, uttering lines of direction as the footage plays for the camera.  She is engrossed and lost.  I think Russo does an excellent job in the movie.  Of course, it’s not hard to play support to Gyllenhaal.

nightcrawler2The movie is very well-structured, except for the ending.  It builds and builds, throws in a sidekick, and explodes with a climax.  Then it ends with some not-so-subtle commentary, which I chuckled at, then it was over.  Not bad, but there’s no resolution either.  Overall, the movie is fascinating to watch and it was like watching a reality show, or one of those police chase TV shows.  Only this movie had actual drama and characters, making it even more of an indulgence.

Compared to Taxi Driver (1976), Nightcrawler doesn’t go far enough.  In Taxi Driver, De Niro jumps off the edge much more than Gyllenhaal does, but both characters step back from psychosis at the end, ending up in the same place in their respective movies.  Their trauma has changed them, which works to motivate Gyllenhaal in his case, making him forget all about the violence and blood from earlier.  Overall, he acts like a guy who’s gotten away with something, and feels pretty much apathetic about becoming morally bankrupt. 

Like Taxi Driver, this movie has some very quotable lines and is very well done.  It is interesting to watch and it’s pretty much the same movie as Taxi Driver, with social commentary sprinkled here and there.  De Niro feels like an entrepreneur, just like Gyllenhaal.  Both of them are insane wackos.  Like Cybill Shepherd’s character with De Niro, Nina has never met anybody like Louis.  Gyllenhaal somehow finds a way to balance wacko-ness and intelligence, without leaving realism at the door.

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