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Nightcrawler (2014)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/10/2015

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/3/2015

What draws you into a movie? Is it the story? Is it the characters? Does the plot offer something interesting about which you are interested in learning more? Occasionally, we get a movie which deftly combines all of these elements. The movie may include some challenging images and ideas, but because we have been drawn in, we are willing to take the ride. Nightcrawler definitely fits this description, as you'll be asking how realistic the story is, while at the same time hoping that it isn't.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Nightcrawler as Louis "Lou" Bloom, a decidedly unscrupulous character. As the film opens, we witness Lou steal a chain-link fence, assault a security guard, and sell said fence. (Fencing a fence?) While he's clearly not above breaking the law, Lou really wants a steady job. While driving on the freeway, Lou stops to look at a traffic accident. He's fascinated when a video crew, led by Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), arrives on the scene and explains that they are gathering footage for the TV news. Lou buys a video camera and decides that he wants to do the same thing. After a few failed attempts, he realizes that he needs help, so he hires Rick (Riz Ahmed) as his navigator. Utilizing a police scanner, Lou is able to show up at crime scenes and accidents to get up-close video footage. He begins to sell his videos to Nina Romina (Rene Russo), the night producer at a local TV station. As Lou begins to make more money and garner positive feedback on his tenacity, he decides that he wants more and dares to get closer and closer to the action.

Gyllenhaal delivers a knockout performance in Nightcrawler, as the movie gives us an incredibly complex and fascinating character. We are given basically no background information on Lou. Again, as the story begins, we see him committing a violent crime and then attempting to sell stolen goods. So, he's clearly not a good person. But, he also comes across as incredibly calm and focused, nearly benign. The movie never really comments on Lou's behavior, but fans of TV's Parenthood may immediately think of Max, the character on the show who has Asperger Syndrome. Lou doesn't fit all of the classic symptoms of this condition, but his rigid thinking, attention to detail, and his lack of empathy do point in that direction at times. No matter what, Lou is someone who knows what he wants and he will stop at nothing to get it.

As one would expect, the film is also commenting on the media. The cliched "if it bleeds, it leads" angle is presented here, but that's nothing new. Nightcrawler goes even further by exploring how guerilla journalism and the technology involved have changed television news. Gone are the huge, shoulder-mounted video cameras. With his small camera, Lou is able to get very close to action, often uncomfortably close, and this raises a question about how intrusive the media should be. Is it OK that Lou has close-ups of victims who are dying? We also see how the plethora of video available from amateur reporters has changed the definition of news. The programs are now dominated by several short stories about various accidents and crimes, instead of actually focusing on big stories. The movie also takes the next step and looks at how reporters can actually manipulate the news themselves.

Like the news stories offered here, we want to look away from Nightcrawler, but we can't. Lou clearly isn't a likable person, even when he puts on his little tie and tries to be charming, but we get sucked into his story. Gyllenhaal, his eyes protruding due to the weight lost for the role, presents us with a very challenging character -- someone who has found his niche and wants to be the best at it, no matter who has to suffer. In some ways, Lou's story plays like a modern-day equivalent of an old gangster movie -- By utilizing modern technology and finding a way into the system (local TV news), Lou has been able to live the American dream. You go into Nightcrawler thinking that Writer/Director Dan Gilroy has made an indictment on American media, but what we get is a character study which is simultaneously fascinating and repulsive. Some would classify Nightcrawler as a drama or a thriller, but I see it teetering on the brink of being a psychological horror film which shows how far one can go with a video camera and a lack of morals.

Nightcrawler doesn't focus enough on how cool Lou's car is on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a mild amount of grain and no defects from the source materials. Much of the film takes place at night, but the image is never overly dark and the action is always visible. We don't get any truly bright colors here, but the tones do look good, like Lou's car. The level of detail is notably good and the picture has a nice amount of depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an active track, as we are treated to a variety of stereo and surround effects. The finale provides very detailed effects, and we get individual sounds from the rear channels. The subwoofer is also involved, providing bass effects which punctuate the car chase.

The Nightcrawler Blu-ray Disc contains only two extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Dan Gilroy, Producer Tony Gilroy, and Editor John Gilroy. "If It Bleeds, It Leads: Making Nightcrawler" (5 minutes) is a brief featurette which offers an overview of the film's story and themes. We get comments from Dan Gilroy, the cast, and two actual "Nightcrawlers" who served as consultants on the film. There are a lot of clips here, but not a lot of informative comments.

Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long