Jake G at TIFF: Nightcrawler review

September 8, 2014 14:46:30 Posted at September 8, 2014 14:46:30
Joanna Posted by Joanna
Angela Weiss/ Jason Merritt/ Getty

Jake Gyllenhaal arrived at the world premiere of Nightcrawler in Toronto to a chorus of thunder, lightning and screaming fans — a perfect match for the electricity he brought to the role.

By now, you've seen the headlines:

"The 5 Craziest Things Jake Gyllenhaal Did to Prepare for his Haunting Nightcrawler Role" in Vanity Fair, about Variety's pre-TIFF cover story.

"Jake Gyllenhaal Suffers Hand Injury on 'Nightcrawler'" in The Hollywood Reporter, during production.

And "Jake Gyllenhaal's Dramatic Weight Loss: My Mom Was Really Worried," on E! Online.

But, was it worth it? After losing 30-pounds by eating "as few calories as possible," Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a seedy con artist-turned-freelance videographer, who prowls the streets of Los Angeles in search of gruesome, bloody crime footage to sell to the highest television news bidder. The aggressive and gaunt Bloom finds a buyer in Nina, played by Rene Russo, the news director of L.A.'s struggling morning show, which is taking a beating in the ratings. When she sees Bloom's footage, she knows it's graphic, but also recognizes it will bring the ratings, specifically with its message of urban crime creeping into the upper middle class LA suburbs. They quickly form a contentious, and eventually, flirtatious relationship, which never manifests itself on screen.

This could be because the film was written and directed by Russo's husband Dan Gilroy, best known for writing 2012's The Bourne Legacy, in his directorial debut. Or, as Gilroy revealed at the red carpet premiere of the film, the real chemistry between the two comes from Bloom's videos, and subsequent ratings, which seem to erotically satisfy Nina's quest to boost her network's news profile, and is perhaps most disturbing of all. Except Bloom soon learns he can't quench his insatiable greed and bloodthirst for beating the police to the scene of a crime. He begins to stage car accidents, home invasions, and homicides to make them more camera-friendly, even taking out a hit on his competitor to not only stay on top, but to get the exclusive on the footage.

Similar to DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, Bloom gives several long rants and monologues, spouting idioms about lottery tickets, taking chances, and the power of hard work. Yet even he can't follow his own advice. Constantly unsatisfied, Bloom always wants more - more blood, more money, and more recognition from Nina and her TV news team. The hermetic Bloom also takes his frustration out on his home mirror, punching it to break the glass, which led to Gyllenhaal's real-life injury.

The gritty crime thriller is an unofficial companion piece to Gyllenhaal's 2012 effort, End of Watch, which also debuted at TIFF. But End of Watch remains a much stronger movie, with its gut-punching portrayal of policing in South Central L.A.. Though helmed by the same production company, and Gyllenhaal himself, Nightcrawler's rants and over-the-top ethical blurred lines are so dramatic, they're nearly laughable, simply because they're so implausible. Why would Russo's Nina, somebody with over 30 years of news experience, take Bloom seriously, when she knows most of his footage was obtained illegally, or without police or victim consent? How could she stand there and listen to his lengthy diatribe about ambition and hard work, and not see he's full of it, and also, dangerous? Why would she agree to margaritas with him if she honestly had no intention of discussing anything but work?

But Nightcrawler is a fantasy. Full of standard stock characters, including a gruff videographer rival played by Bill Paxton, and naive drifter-turned-second-in-command-to-Bloom, Riz Ahmed, the film does a great job delivering its sensationalized message to the audience. Still we are left hungry for more. Being weighed down by cheesy Super Nintendo-esque videogame music doesn't help much either.

It is however an impressive first effort from Gilroy, who employed four other members of his extended family, including his wife, in the film. As for Gyllenhaal, he may have been smiling with the fans in the pouring rain (and loving the Toronto fan attention), but dressed in an all-black suit, he seemed nervous and pensive that his weight loss and dramatic conviction would be for naught. It wasn't, but the well-done Nightcrawler might not be the grand slam he thought he'd hit. Just a ground rule double here.

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