Blu-ray Review Crime

Blu-ray Review: Nightcrawler

March 4, 2015Ben MK

He owns the night...

Acting demands commitment, and nothing spells dedication to your craft more than transforming your body for a role. Robert De Niro did it for Raging Bull; Christian Bale did it for The Machinist; and Jake Gyllenhaal does it for Nightcrawler. Shedding twenty pounds for screenwriter Tony Gilroy's directorial debut may not seem like a lot, but it goes a long way towards making Gyllenhaal's performance — that of a lonely grifter whose indoctrination into the seedy underbelly of L.A. crime journalism sends his narcissistic tendencies spiraling out of control — one of the year's most haunting.


The Film Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a lonely opportunist with no formal education, who resorts to theft and robbery — stealing everything from wristwatches to manhole covers — in order to make a quick buck. However, in his twisted mind, he's a model of hard work and determination, living his life by the self-styled credo, "If you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket." In truth, Lou just wants what everyone else wants — the American dream. And late one night, while driving home on the freeway, he stumbles upon what he believes may be the way to achieve it, when he observes a veteran crime scene stringer (Bill Paxton) filming the mangled aftermath of a fiery car wreck.

Realizing that there's a profit to be made from others' misfortunes, Lou is inspired to get in on the action himself. He pawns (what else) a stolen bike for a second-hand camcorder and police scanner — even hiring a gullible "intern" named Rick (Riz Ahmed) to ride shotgun — and soon he's speeding from one bloody scene to the next, gathering footage of traffic accidents, home invasions and other urban crimes. Then, before the break of dawn each day, he makes his way to L.A.'s lowest-rated news station, KWLA, where he hocks his gruesome wares to Nina (Rene Russo), a graveyard shift news director who's more than willing to sacrifice ethics for ratings.

It seems to be the perfect arrangement for everyone involved. That is, until Lou gets greedy. Overzealous, he starts engaging in evidence tampering and begins endangering the lives of those around him, all in the name of securing that perfectly-framed shot for the early morning news. Of course, the film bears some resonance as a darkly satirical commentary on sensationalism in the media, particularly in its depiction of Nina and Lou's relationship. But it's as a disturbing character study that Nightcrawler truly excels, thanks to Gyllenhaal's unflinching turn as its well-spoken, but decidedly unhinged, lead character — an antihero cut from the same sociopathic cloth as American Psycho's Patrick Bateman.

Exhibiting a perpetually wide-eyed intensity, the actor makes no attempt to court sympathy from filmgoers. Yet, he somehow manages to make Lou's many glaring personality flaws register as weirdly charming. For no matter how much we grow to loathe his motives, we nonetheless identify with them. As a result, it's easy to root for Lou, even though every moral fiber in our bodies may be screaming at us not to. And it's positively thrilling to watch him climb (both literally and figuratively) over body after body to get to the top.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Apropos for its title, much of Nightcrawler was shot over the course of 28 long nights; so, of course, brooding darkness plays an integral role in the film's visual aesthetic. Fortunately, nighttime scenes are rendered perfectly, and feature rich blacks offset against the pulsating red and blue glow of police sirens or the sickly orange hues of street lamps. Image detail is also rock solid, with moderate film grain keeping proceedings sufficiently gritty. And colors are vibrant, especially whenever Lou's bright red RT Challenger makes an appearance. As for the audio, the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack excels at allowing all the elements of the film's soundstage to shine, from the dialogue, to composer James Newton Howard's evocative score, to the sound of screeching tires, gunshots and car crashes.

Special Features The extras on Elevation Pictures' Canadian Blu-ray release are an exact match for Universal's Blu-ray release south of the border. That means we get a DVD copy of the film, an iTunes/UltraViolet digital copy, as well as a pair of special features. Leading things off is If It Bleeds, It Leads: Making Nightcrawler, a 5-minute making-of piece featuring writer/director Dan Gilroy and actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed, in which they discuss the film, its inspiration and its characters. There's also a very informative Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Dan Gilroy, Producer Tony Gilroy and Editor John Gilroy, in which the trio shed light on the film's origin and its production, including such topics as the actors' performances, the editorial process and the grueling shooting schedule.

The Bottom Line Moviegoers may not come away from Nightcrawler endorsing Lou's methods, but you definitely can't ignore Jake Gyllenhaal's commitment to playing one of the creepiest characters moviegoers have ever seen. At once repulsive and enthralling, this is the actor's darkest and most compelling performance to date. And Elevation Pictures' Blu-ray release does both it and the film proud, offering a stunning audio/video presentation, topped off with a couple of insightful special features. You may not hear about it on the nightly news, but Nightcrawler on Blu-ray is highly recommended indeed.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on October 31st, 2014.

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