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Nightcrawler review

Have I got grue for you...

'Network meets Taxi Driver ' might have been the pitch for Dan Gilroy’s debut feature, a ghoulish satire that trawls the dark corners and neon-soaked streets of LA.

Gaunt and bug-eyed, Jake Gyllenhaal excels as Lou Bloom, a lost soul who stumbles across a bloody road accident and stands transfixed as a TV news crew feeds off the carnage. After getting hold of a digital camera and a police scanner, Lou goes into business, prowling the city at witching hour and selling his crime footage to cutthroat producer Nina (Rene Russo). If it bleeds, it leads, and the needle of Lou’s moral compass doesn’t so much as twitch when he begins to manipulate crime scenes to enable ever-more-vivid footage.

Our obsession with crime, the media’s peddling of fear and news-as-ratings-hungry- entertainment are hardly fresh themes, and Gilroy (younger brother of Tony) aims them at the viewer with heavy intensity. But what Nightcrawler lacks in subtlety it makes up for in mood, the LA skyline forever twinkling in the distance (it is to Lou what the green light is to Jay Gatsby) as ace DoP Robert Elswit paints the edges of the city in murk and sodium.

Gyllenhaal is ably supported by Riz Ahmed as his hired assistant, Bill Paxton as the head of a rival news crew and Russo in her best role since The Thomas Crown Affair , but this is Jake’s gig. Sustained by blood and crookedly perky in a manner that recalls The King Of Comedy ’s sociopath Rupert Pupkin, Gyllenhaal’s Lou is a chilling, mesmerising creation, none more so than when he gazes at the studio backdrop of the LA skyline and murmurs, lullaby-like, “On TV it looks so real.”

Switch off that television and head out to the cinema: Gyllenhaal is sensational headlining a pitch-black satire with its finger on the pulse.

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Jamie Graham

Jamie Graham is the Editor-at-Large of Total Film magazine. You'll likely find them around these parts reviewing the biggest films on the planet and speaking to some of the biggest stars in the business – that's just what Jamie does. Jamie has also written for outlets like SFX and the Sunday Times Culture, and appeared on podcasts exploring the wondrous worlds of occult and horror.