Good news, bad news

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

NIGHTCRAWLER Di­rected by Dan Gil­roy. Star­ring Jake Gyl­len­haal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Pax­ton, Kevin Rahm, Michael Hy­att, Ann Cu­sack. 16 cert, gen re­lease, 117 min The best mo­ment in this beau­ti­fully sin­is­ter LA noir finds Rene Russo, pro­ducer at a news sta­tion, ask­ing her more scrupu­lous col­league if it is okay to broad­cast a par­tic­u­larly grue­some piece of footage. “You mean morally?” he asks more in hope than ex­pec­ta­tion. The “yeah, right!” look that Russo slings him – she is only in­ter­ested in po­ten­tial le­gal is­sues – suc­cinctly con­veys the trough into which we have sunk.

Cometh the moral de­cline cometh the avari­cious psy­chopath. Jake Gyl­len­haal has never been bet­ter as Lou Bloom, a cyn­i­cal loner who makes a liv­ing flog­ging stolen build­ing sup­plies.

One evening, Bloom (surely named for the hero of another city saga) hap­pens upon a traf­fic ac­ci­dent and takes note of the free­lance crew film­ing the af­ter­math. “If it bleeds, it leads,” the cam­era­man ex­plains. Now, this is a business with which the cold-eyed, friend­less Bloom can con­nect. Be­fore too long, he has bought a cheap cam­era

Bloom­ing great: Jake Gyl­len­haal has never been bet­ter

and has be­gun lis­ten­ing to the po­lice ra­dio. Ut­terly amoral, ruth­lessly ef­fi­cient, he cap­tures grue­some footage that may help save Russo’s strug­gling net­work.

As an LA myth from the school of Michael Mann, Nightcrawler works quite bril­liantly. Filmed both dig­i­tally and on film, the pic­ture takes place in a glassy light that em­u­lates Bloom’s psy­cho­log­i­cal with­drawal. He is un­able to con­nect with any hu­man and no hu­man makes any emo­tional con­nec­tion with us.

As a study of cur­rent me­dia crises, the film is not quite so suc­cess­ful. Gyl­len­haal’s in­car­na­tion of a post-Scors­ese ex­is­ten­tial loon – more Ru­pert Pup­kin than Travis Bickle – is never less than un­set­tling. But to make the pho­tog­ra­pher a gen­uine psy­chopath is to lessen the satir­i­cal punch. It would be fright­en­ing to think that all the pa­parazzi, am­bu­lance chasers and fu­neral stalk­ers were crazy. The re­al­i­sa­tion that, for the most part, they’re quite sane is scarier still.

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