It’s difficult to find our moral bearings in Dan Gilroy’s slippery post modern thriller/satire that serves up one of cinema’s creepiest anti-heroes as a distraction from the film’s real target, the audience.
And it’s all done with some style, making the most of L.A.’s nighttime cityscape and a seriously compelling performance from a gaunt looking Jake Gyllenhaal; allowing Gilroy to take ridiculous liberties and get away with it.
It has the assurance of an old pro and in some ways that’s true, Gilroy being the screenwriter of ‘The Bourne Legacy’, amongst others, but still defying his status as a debut filmmaker.
Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, the excrement of the American Dream gone wrong – a nightcrawler – who profits from a gruesome voyeurism and suburban paranoia, being the first on the scene at serious crimes and accidents in well-to-do neighbourhoods – sometimes before the cops – and searching for a TV ‘journalist’ money shot; blood, guts and gore in extreme close-up even if it means re-arranging dead bodies for effect.
TV producer, Nina, is the happy recipient, fighting the breakfast ratings battle where she is only as good as her last figures and remains indifferent to Bloom’s immorality or, at least, until he throws in a friendship with extras as a part of the price for the footage.
Rene Russo gives Nina a vulnerability and some of the film’s best scenes expose the Faustian pact breaking her down, which not even a hard earned wisdom can resist.
And Riz Ahmed impresses – again – as Bloom’s sidekick, Rick, desperate for the miserly pay on offer but caught in a silent morality nightmare of his own.
Bizarrely, Bloom communicates in a faux management speak, spewing out corporate style business plans, goals, payment reviews and other capitalist claptrap almost verbatim; gallows humour played for easy laughs rather than analogous subtlety.
It could have easily destabilised the whole film but for Gyllenhaal striking the perfect balance between a carefree innocence that would be endearing in other circumstances and an obsessive psycho with a welcoming Norman Bates smile.
Just as Nina feeds off her audience’s fears, so does Gilroy albeit with a huge dose of well crafted irony; a jet black fun piece masquerading as something else, which works.