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He Said, She Said Review Site

Nightcrawler

What She said:

She

Rarely do I encounter a movie without a hero or likable character of any kind, and still find myself enjoying the film. It’s more of a challenge to connect with the movie if the characters are off-putting. However, Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a deranged con-man who films crime scenes for money, managed to appeal to me. Gyllenhaal’s character, Louis “Lou” Bloom, is pretty horrible, and yet he’s so complex that I found myself extremely interested in him. Lou’s unpredictable nature helped to create a thriller that held my attention for its full two-hour runtime. While not particularly realistic—I’d say this film is pretty “out there”—Nightcrawler was interesting and riddled with solid performances, especially from Gyllenhaal.

Nightcrawler

The film follows lead character, Lou, as he scrapes up just enough money to get by. He is gaunt, creepy, and clearly suffers from some mental disturbances, and yet there’s a slight air of innocence about him, authentic or not. He’s somewhat childlike, although it’s also clear that he can hold his own. Lou doesn’t always resort to legal means to get his money. In fact, I’m not sure that anything he does in this movie is ethical. As we meet him, he’s stealing metal to sell for scrap when he gets busted by a security guard. Lou sees opportunity in his downfall, and attacks the guard, stealing his watch and making off with the metal for sale. Interestingly, he does seem to be looking for more legit work. He asks the owner of the scrap yard if he can have a job, highlighting all of his more desirable qualities. However, he’s rejected because he’s a thief.

Oh his way home one night, Lou encounters a pretty nasty car accident. He pulls over—he seems to be entranced by violence—and sees a camera crew zip in and start filming the gore and excitement. Lou learns that the freelance crew, led by Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), make a living by driving around and filming police activity using their scanner to get a leg up on the competition. Apparently, there’s a whole market for this. The camera crew that gets there first and gets the best shot can turn around and sell the footage to local TV stations who are willing to pay top dollar because it translates into high viewer ratings. It doesn’t really seem legal, but apparently this is what is happening in fictional Los Angeles (I cannot speak for the real LA).

Nightcrawler

Anyway, Lou decides then and there that this is a potential moneymaker for him. He steals a high-end bicycle and then pawns it for a video camera and police scanner. From there he begins his enterprise. Along the way, as Lou begins to follow more and more calls, he hires an “intern” to assist named Rick. Lou ends up forming a business relationship with a local news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo), whose struggling TV program has her on the verge of losing her job. Despite the fact that Lou’s footage is extremely graphic and barely within the boundaries of legal, she sees ratings and money in it, and so she continually purchases the videos from Lou.

Lou’s business picks up, and he finds himself upgrading—a new camera and a new Dodge Challenger that can squeal through the LA streets making fast time to get to crime scenes. He also understands that the more exciting the scene the more money it will pay, so Lou begins tampering with crime scenes in order to get better shows. He also sabotages the competition. This is clearly an industry that is perfect for Lou’s unhinged personality. He seems to have no moral compass, and so there isn’t much that is outside of the boundaries of what he’ll do for money.

As the stakes become higher and higher, the question becomes just how far Lou will be willing to go for the sake of the perfect crime scene footage.

So, I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll reiterate my impression that much of the story of this film seems unlikely and contrived. Even in LA, it doesn’t seem possible that this racket of “nightcrawler” freelance videographers could exist to the extent depicted in this film. Or maybe they do? The paparazzi do seem big out there. Anyway, some of the elements of this film seem just outside the boundaries of the believable, and that’s really my only gripe here. However, for the sake of entertainment, I just let myself go with it, and I’m glad that I put aside my skeptical nature and did decide to take the ride.

Nightcrawler

This movie truly is a thriller driven by its characters. It’s all about getting on board and watching Lou’s mind explore its boundaries. The question that really kept me enthralled in this movie was, “How far is Lou willing to go?” I kept wondering if he had any moral conscience whatsoever. He’s complex in the sense that he sometimes has a childlike demeanor—he doesn’t come across as your typical thug. Instead, he’s a chatty slight fella who has a deeply deranged mind. I found myself wondering things about him, like where is his family? How did he end up this way? He’s a horrible person, but also one that’s fascinating to watch, and Gyllenhaal did a fantastic job portraying him. He’s almost unrecognizable in the amount of weight that he lost for the role.

Russo and Riz Ahmed as Rick are also quite good. Russo’s character, Nina, shares similarities with Lou in that she’s desperate to stay ahead. Money is a driving factor for them both, although Nina seems sane, despite her morally wrong decisions. She also hires others, like Lou, to do most of her dirty work. She just makes the decision to air the grizzly footage. Bill Paxton is his usual Bill Paxton as Joe Loder. He’s never really spectacular as an actor—just your average guy, likable, and someone you’d want to share a beer with.

The production value of this movie is quite good, despite being filmed on a relatively small budget. It’s dark and captures the grittiness of the LA streets. I also enjoyed some of the newsroom footage at the local TV station. It felt very authentic. There are many scenes of Lou and Rick zipping around in the Dodge Challenger—so much so that they start of kind of feel like a car commercial. But they’re still well filmed. If I didn’t dislike Dodges so much, I’d consider getting one after watching Nightcrawler.

The film serves as a very good thriller that makes you question the soundness of humanity. It’s brutal in some of the gore that it shows, but is otherwise smooth to watch. I actually really liked this film.

Thumbs up.

Nightcrawler

What He said:

He

They say to not judge a book by its cover, but there are times where you just know. You ever meet somebody and almost instantly you can tell that there’s something wrong with them? They don’t even have to say much, but there is simply something about them that says “off” and they aren’t able to hide it. Well that’s Lou Bloom.

Nightcrawler

Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a loner, but more importantly in terms of our viewing experience, he is a guy trying to make something of his life. One could even say he’s obsessed with finding work. This might sound like a good thing on the surface, but I assure you it is not. Lou will do just about anything for money – in the beginning of the movie he is shown stealing various things to sell at scrap yards and pawn shops.

One night, while on his way home from “working”, he sees a car accident and pulls over. We don’t know why he pulls over, but he seems drawn to it. Fate perhaps? Within a few minutes a guy named Joe pulls up, hops out of his fan, and immediately begins filming the scene, which includes a couple of cops trying to rescue someone from a burning car. Intrigued, Lou asks Joe (Bill Paxton) what he’s doing. Joe explains that he’s a freelance cameraman who sells his footage to the highest bidder.

Remember how I told you Lou is obsessed with finding work? Well, he views this as his big opportunity. He steals some more stuff, pawns it off, and uses the money to buy a video camera and police scanner. These guys, they are called nightcrawlers, that’s what they do. They sit around listening to police radio chatter waiting for a crime, accident, or some other newsworthy event to happen. When it does, they race towards it like a bat out of hell so that they can film it and sell it to whoever wants it, which is usually a local news outlet.  

Nightcrawler

This appeals to Lou on several levels. First of all, there’s a demand for it. We live in the era 24/7 news. There are multiple channels that play news around that clock and I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but the local channels show news about six times a day. Lou likes the idea of possible steady work.

It also appeals to his ego. He gets a high out of it. All jobs require some element of completing a task, but not every job is equally rewarding. But I can see why somebody feels a sense of accomplishment from filming something that gets put on TV – and that’s particularly dangerous when it’s being done by someone like Lou.

Things start off shaky for Lou, but once he sells his first footage, he really starts to find his groove. He hires an assistant, gets some better equipment – which enables him to film more stories – and upgrades his car. He’s feeling pretty good about himself. But as I mentioned earlier, Lou is a criminal and has an obsessive personality. Some of the things he starts to do could be called unethical.

Riz Ahmed plays his assistant, Rick. Rick is like Lou in the sense that before now, his life really wasn’t going anywhere. However, I got the impression that Rick is the kind of guy who lives on friends couches and smokes too much pot, but not a criminal like Lou. He thinks Loud is odd, but also needs the money, and is willing to put up with Lou’s eccentric personality for a paycheck.

Rene Russo plays Nina Romina. Nina is a former on-air personality who is now the news director for a dead timeslot on the lowest rated station in the city. When Lou starts to bring her footage that gets the station higher ratings, that old fire in her belly starts to return. She initially takes Lou under her wing, but questions the decision when Lou’s ego rears its ugly head.

Now this might not sound overly exciting, but I can assure you this is a very tense thriller. I’m reading the entry for it on Wikipedia and it is described as a neo-noir crime thriller. If you don’t know a lot about this movie, you might not be able to understand how a movie that revolved around a freelance cameraman is exciting or a tense crime drama, but I can assure you the movie is all of those things and more. This movie is a fascinating character study, as well as a peek into the seedy world that is the news industry. This movie is a crime drama from another angle.

Nightcrawler

I am absolutely shocked that Jake Gyllenhaal – nor the movie itself – is nominated for an Academy Award. I haven’t seen all of the nominees. Hell, if I’m being honest, I’ve only seen Boyhood. But I can say without a doubt in my mind it’s better than that movie. There is no way in hell that movie should have been nominated over this one and Jake Gyllenhall’s performance is a huge reason for that. He brings this icky, gross, and frankly insane character to life. As I said earlier, you can tell he’s off when you meet him. But once you get to know him, he goes from possibly being eccentric to being outright nuts. This is not a healthy human being, but damn he’s fascinating to watch. He has to be a sociopath, because he has no regard for others. All he cares about is his success and the glory that goes along with it.

Rene Russo was also fantastic.  This might actually be the role of her career. I’ve seen her in Get Shorty, a couple of Lethal Weapon movies, Major League, and a handful of others. She’s great in lighter movies, but this is award worthy, and so is her performance. She plays a washed up anchor, who seems to have accepted that, but once she gets a little praise for the stories she’s been airing, that old on-air diva-like personality returns. It’s a fascinating look into the news business – and yes it is a business.

Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton are pretty damn good too.

This is a great movie. I wasn’t so sure about it going into it, because of the premise, but this was damn entertaining. It’s got great performances, awesome cinematography, and fascinating characters. I don’t know about the rest of the Best Picture nominees, but this blows Boyhood out of the water.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on February 19, 2015.