Friday, November 14, 2014

Dan Gilroy's dark 'n devious NIGHTCRAWLER offers Jake Gyllenhaal's best performance yet

A just-about-perfect (if awfully long) double bill of current movies might be Gone Girl and NIGHTCRAWLER, the two films offering the most sociopathic leading characters in many a moon. If these two were married, whom do you think would survive? I'd bet on Jake Gyllenhaal's Louis Bloom. This is both a character, and the perfor-mance of that character, that is bizarre and memorable -- like just about nothing you will have seen previously. In retrospect, you might have some questions (few, I think, that you won't be able to answer on your own), but while you're watching, you're absolutely in thrall.

Writer/director Dan Gilroy (at right) is best-known for his screenplays (The Bourne Legacy, The Fall and the highly under-rated Two for the Money).This is his first directing job, and he does his own screenplay proud. Nothing showy, mind you, but all is in its place. This is also a long film -- coming in three minutes shy of two hours -- but it moves so quickly and interestingly that you don't realize the length. And Mr. Gyllenhaal, below and further below, is giving such a rapturous performance -- strange yet graceful, measured, and as real as you could ask for -- that he, in one scene, almost brought me to tears.

This is doubly odd, since his character is such a sociopath, and though we know this from the initial scene, we don't learn the extent of it until the movie gets much further underway. How this character discovers his metier, as it were, and what he does with it, make for the most fascinating tale movies have told us this year.

Into that tale arrive two important characters. The most important is a woman (played exceptionally well by Rene Russo, above, right, who I'm told is the filmmaker's wife) in charge of news programming at an up-and-coming local TV station in the Los Angeles area who gloms onto Louis' video work. The other is the younger man (a fine Riz Ahmed, below, center, and minus his British accent) whom Louis hires as his assistant.

All the other characters, many of whom die or are already dead when we meet them, are important to our protagonist only in so much as they can be of use to him. And as the tale proceeds, this use becomes more and more shocking, though it never leaves the realm of believability.

Nightcrawler is dark, certainly, and unsettling too, but it is so well conceived and executed that it is impossible not to recommend. Its plotting is also more believable than some of the twists and turns taken by Gone Girl, a movie I thoroughly enjoyed but found wanting in the mystery department, though not at all in terms of its being a crackerjack exploration of today's 30-somethings -- so entitled and narcissistic.

Released via Open Road, the film is currently playing in theaters across the nation. I recommend a visit; failing that, be sure to stick it on your must-see list for Blu-ray, DVD or streaming.

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