The Fabricated Image

Nightcrawler

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Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton, Kevin Rahm, Ann Cusack

The opening shot of Dan Gilroy’s gripping thriller Nightcrawler is of a blank bill board set against the glittering skyline of downtown Los Angeles.

The introduction of the anti-hero Lou Bloom, expertly played against type by Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain) is of a lonely scavenger in a hostile metropolis desperate to make a quick buck. Bloom is even stealing manhole covers to sell to scrap dealers. Bloom claims he is desperate for a job, any job and spends his days flicking through the multitude of local TV News channels and surfing the internet, an epitome of loneliness and desperation, an ideal sociopath.

Nightcrawler picks up the pace when Bloom drives past a horrific accident and he sees a videographer Joe Loder played by Bill Paxton filming the bloodied carnage. Loder tells Bloom that he sells the accident scene footage to any of the city’s seedier local news networks for cash. By its definition Nightcrawler is a scavenger filming the underbelly of a city as there are car accidents, housebreak-ins, plane crashes and shootings and any footage from the previous night makes the Morning News on one of the Los Angeles TV News channels.

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After pawning a stolen bike from Venice Beach, Bloom buys a camcorder and soon begins the night prowl where he is quick to pick up the art of framing an image, showcasing all the evening’s carnage to Nina Romina, a glamourous slightly ruthless news editor wonderfully played by Rene Russo (Lethal Weapon, Thor, The Thomas Crown Affair). Upon their first meeting the electricity between Bloom and Romina is electric, two amoral characters caught in a sort of dysfunctional older woman younger man relationship based on mutual infatuation and shared amoral vision of a heartless society.

The hardened Romina recognizes Blooms uncharacteristic drive, his insatiable thirst for disturbing news imagery and his ruthless lack of empathy for any of the victims involved in these awful occurrences from home invasions to traffic accidents to domestic disturbances.

Director Gilroy brother of Tony Gilroy who did the acclaimed film Michael Clayton is adept at showing the gritty underbelly of the American dream, a world where it really is each man for himself in a ruthless race to survive in the post-recession free market capitalist economy which has stripped many of these American cities of its lustre.

Los Angeles with all its film noir qualities becomes a central landscape in Nightcrawler, a dystopian inspiration for an American dream gone awry captured soon brilliantly in Paul Schrader’s The Canyons and Quentin Tarantino’s post-modern crime epic Pulp Fiction.

Nightcrawler’s intensity gains traction when Lou Bloom, ever the ruthless entrepreneur hires a desperate drifter, Richard as his assistant and co-driver, wonderfully played by Riz Ahmed from The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a needy relationship which is ripe for exploitation right till the bitter and shocking end.

What makes Nightcrawler so unique is that its theory that what viewers consume on 24 hour television news channels is a collection of fabricated images, ever reminding us that however real that Television footage looks, it’s is still constructed and edited to maximum visual effect, primarily to shock the audiences into a dull yet primordial complicity unique to human fascination.

Let’s face it, everyone loves watching an accident scene but hates actually being the victim of one. 21st century contemporary viewers of TV and film have become desensitized to carnage. As Nina Romina so brilliantly puts it:

“Think of our news broadcast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat slit”.

Gyllenhaal delivers a deadpan performance as the vile antihero, Lou Bloom, certainly one of his career bests, where above all his sociopathic tendencies he emphasizes the dangerous power and fatal attraction of loneliness exemplified in director Nicholas Winding Refn’s excellent film noir classic Drive.

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Dan Gilroy’s thriller Nightcrawler features a narcissistic, brutal and sociopathic amoral central character set in a gritty, crime ridden Los Angeles throwing up a disturbing view of contemporary American cities as being entirely devoid of emotion or community. Gilroy’s flair for cutting dialogue is influenced by Tarantino and his visual language is influenced by such luminous directors as David Lynch and Paul Schrader.

Nightcrawler is a first rate film recommended for viewers that enjoyed Drive, Mullholland Drive and Pulp Fiction with Jake Gyllenhaal giving one of his most creepiest performances in ages as the ruthless videographer and ambulance chaser Lou Bloom.

 

 

 

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