Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Dan Gilroy|
|Written by||Dan Gilroy|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||John Gilroy|
|Distributed by||Open Road Films|
|Box office||$50.3 million|
Nightcrawler is a 2014 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a thief who starts shooting live footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles, selling the content to a local news channel as a stringer while secretly sabotaging both crime scenes and other news reporters. It also features Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton.
The film had its world premiere at the Special Presentations section of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. It was released theatrically by Open Road Films on October 31, 2014. It received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 87th Academy Awards.
Petty thief Lou Bloom is caught stealing from a Los Angeles construction site by a security guard. When confronted, Lou attacks the guard, steals his watch, and leaves with the stolen material. After selling the material at a scrap yard, he asks for a job there but is rejected. Driving home, Lou sees a car crash and pulls over. Stringers—freelance photojournalists—soon arrive and record the crash. One of the stringers, Joe Loder, tells Lou that they sell their footage to local news stations. Inspired, he steals a bicycle and trades it for a camcorder and a police radio scanner. After two unsuccessful attempts, Lou records the aftermath of a fatal carjacking, and sells the footage to KWLA 6. He meets the morning news director Nina Romina, who informs him of the station’s specific interest in footage of violent incidents. Lou hires an assistant, Rick, a young man desperate for money. To give his footage more impact, Lou begins tampering with crime scenes and in one case moves a body. As Lou's work gains traction, he buys better equipment and a muscle car.
Lou is able to coerce Nina into having a dinner date, and threatens to end his business with her unless she has sex with him. He points out that her job depends on his footage, especially since KWLA 6 is the lowest rated news station in Los Angeles; Nina reluctantly agrees. The next day, Joe beats Lou to the scene of a plane crash. Nina becomes furious at Lou, demanding he get better footage and keep his end of their bargain. Lou sabotages Joe's van, causing it to crash. Joe is severely injured and Lou films the aftermath. A few days later, Lou and Rick arrive at the site of a home invasion before the police. Lou records gunmen leaving in their SUV, as well as their vehicle’s license plate, and proceeds into the house to film the murder victims. When presented with the footage, the news staff argue over the ethics of the video, but Nina is eager to break the story. In exchange, Lou demands public credit, more money, and that Nina be more cooperative with sexual favors. Police detective Frontieri begins questioning Lou about his whereabouts and connection to the home invasion. He gives her edited footage of the home invasion, cutting out the parts with the gunmen. That night, after picking up Rick, he tracks down the gunmen using their license plate, and plans to follow them to a more affluent area, then call the police and record the resulting confrontation. Terrified, Rick demands half the money Lou stands to make, threatening to tell the police about Lou's crimes, to which he agrees.
When the gunmen stop at a restaurant, Lou phones the police and sets up the positions for filming. The police arrive and a shootout ensues. One suspect is killed while the other escapes in the SUV. The police give chase, with Lou and Rick tailing and recording. After the gunman's SUV crashes, Lou urges Rick to film the gunman, claiming he is dead. The gunman, who was only wounded, fatally shoots Rick. The gunman tries to escape, but is shot by police. Lou films Rick dying, saying that he cannot work with a partner he doesn't trust. Nina is awed by the shootout footage and expresses her devotion to Lou. The news team discovers that the home invasion was actually a drug deal gone wrong; Nina omits this information to maximize the story's impact. Frontieri attempts to confiscate all copies of the shootout footage for evidence, but Nina defends her right to air it. Frontieri then interrogates Lou, who fabricates a story about the men in the SUV following him. He is suspected of lying, but without sufficient evidence, is instead released from custody. Lou hires a team of interns and purchases vans to expand his business.
- Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis "Lou" Bloom
- Rene Russo as Nina Romina
- Riz Ahmed as Rick
- Bill Paxton as Joe Loder
- Michael Hyatt as Detective Frontieri
- Ann Cusack as Linda
- Kevin Rahm as Frank Kruse
- Kathleen York as Jackie
- Eric Lange as Ace Video Cameraman
- Jonny Coyne as Pawn Shop Owner
- Michael Papajohn as Security Guard
Various Los Angeles news anchors either appear as themselves, such as Pat Harvey and Kent Shocknek, or as lightly fictionalized versions of themselves, such as Sharon Tay, Rick Garcia and Rick Chambers.
Development and writing
Nightcrawler was directed by Dan Gilroy, who came up with the idea for the film after reading the novel Naked City in 1988. Naked City was written by Weegee, a photographer who in the 1930s would photograph New York City residents at night and sell the pictures to tabloids. Weegee was also the first person to use a police radio scanner to arrive at a crime scene before police. Gilroy was intrigued by the photography, and wrote a film treatment based on Weegee's lifestyle; he described the treatment as having a "Chinatown feel". However, Gilroy did not pursue this idea until he moved to Los Angeles. He noticed that some videos shown on the local news would have a watermark, denoting that it was the property of a freelance photojournalist. Gilroy discovered that these photojournalists were called stringers, people who would record late night events such as car chases and shootouts, and sell their footage to news stations; he considered them to be the modern day equivalent of Weegee. Unaware of any film that focused on the life of a stringer, Gilroy began writing the screenplay.
Gilroy spent several years trying to write a plot that would fit the setting, and experimented with conspiracies and murder mysteries as central story elements. Eventually, he decided to instead start by designing the characters, and attempted to create a standard literary hero. Unable to create an interesting hero character, he then envisioned an antihero as the lead character. Gilroy felt that antiheros were a rarity in films, because they are difficult to write, and that they usually devolved into psychopaths; in an attempt to break this stereotype, he thought of writing an antihero success story. Several films were used to research how to write antiheros, including The King of Comedy (1983), To Die For (1995), and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).
When he created Lou Bloom, Gilroy intentionally avoided giving him a character arc; Gilroy believes that people develop their ideals at a certain point in their life, and that they stay that way regardless of what happens. This is depicted in the opening scene of the film, when Lou attacks a security guard, so that the audience would not think "oh, he was a nice guy who this job made crazy". In addition, Lou's backstory was purposefully left out of the script, as Gilroy felt that without one, the audience would create their own backstories for Lou, and become more engaged with the character. Another facet when creating Lou was the exploration of unemployment and capitalism. Gilroy was aware of how many people have to deal with few job opportunities, and was interested in having Lou become driven by his desperation for work. He believes that Lou is someone who perpetually focuses by the precepts of capitalism, and that these thoughts not only give him sanity, but also push him over the edge. Gilroy also wanted to subtly indicate that Lou was suffering from arrested development, as dinosaur toys can be seen in his apartment.
Although the script primarily focuses on Lou's character, it also discusses the ethics of journalism. Gilroy once served as a reporter for Variety, and cites Network (1976) as a major influence on how he views modern day journalism. While Nightcrawler is not a film about journalism, Gilroy was critical of news outlets that often sensationalize their headlines, and give disproportionate coverage to crimes as opposed to other important topics. He wrote the film as a "cautionary tale", and wanted the audience to wonder if "the problem isn’t Lou. Maybe the problem is the world that creates a Lou and rewards him".
Pre-production and casting
After the script was finished, Dan Gilroy knew that he wanted to direct the film. He sent the script to his brother Tony Gilroy, and asked him for advice on directing. Tony Gilroy described the script as "absolutely compelling", and immediately sent the script to Jennifer Fox, who had produced some of Tony Gilroy's previous films. In addition to Fox, Tony Gilroy remarked how every person who read the script wanted to work on the film. Once enough people had signed onto the project, Dan Gilroy enlisted the help of his other brother John Gilroy, who had edited several of Tony Gilroy's films. The production team needed licensed background footage for the newsroom scenes, and the Raishbrook brothers, three real life stringers, offered their footage. The brothers were eventually brought on as technical advisers.
Jake Gyllenhaal was Gilroy's first choice for the role of Lou. During pre-production, Gyllenhaal was going to star in another film, but the project eventually fell through, allowing Gilroy to meet with him. Gilroy flew to Atlanta where Gyllenhaal was filming Prisoners (2013), and the two discussed the script. When Gilroy told Gyllenhaal that he wrote Nightcrawler as a success story, Gyllenhaal became interested in the film. The two began rehearsing the script months before filming began, and Gyllenhaal became heavily involved in production, from choosing members of the crew to watching audition tapes. While rehearsing the character, Gilroy mentioned how he saw Lou as a coyote, a nocturnal predator who is driven by its never ending hunger. Gyllenhaal took this comment literally, and lost thirty pounds by eating nothing but kale salads and running ten miles everyday. Although some of the crew considered this to be a controversial decision, Gilroy was supportive of the weight loss; Gyllenhaal was respectful and did not change the script, so Gilroy wanted to reciprocate this generosity.
Gyllenhaal stated that he did not want a recognizable actor for Rick, which led to auditions. Riz Ahmed was one of seventy-five actors to audition for the role or Rick. The British actor was attending a friend's wedding in Los Angeles, when his talent agent suggested he meet Gilroy for a "general chat". Gilroy told Ahmed that he had seen his previous work, and that he was not fit for the role, but still allowed him to audition. Within the first minute of his audition tape however, Gilroy felt confident in the actor, and announced he had been cast. To prepare for the role, Ahmed met with homeless people in Skid Row, and researched homeless shelters to "understand the system". He found that most of the people dealt with abandonment issues, and attempted to replicate this in Rick's abusive relationship with Lou. Additionally, Gilroy, Gyllenhaal, and Ahmed all rode with the Raishbrook brothers to accurately portray their lifestyle.
Gilroy specifically wrote the role of Nina for his wife Rene Russo; this was because he felt that Nina could easily be reduced to a "hard-nosed corporate bitch", but Russo would bring a sense of vulnerability to the character. Although Russo was unaware that Gilroy had done this while writing the script, she was interested in performing the role, as she had never played the role of a desperate woman in a film. Russo initially struggled with the character, because she never saw herself as the victim. In order to accurately portray the character, Russo began to recall memories of when she crossed moral boundaries in her life as a result of desperation and fear. In contrast to Gyllenhaal and Ahmed, Russo did not consult news directors or journalists to prepare for the role, as she believed that Nina could be in any business, and did not want to hinder her character to one area.
Nightcrawler was filmed on a budget of $8.5 million, which Tony Gilroy noted was extremely low, and should have "easily cost three times that amount". Before the filming for Nightcrawler began, the production crew spent two days doing location scouting across Los Angeles. Over eighty locations were used in the film, including the KTLA news station and the Pioneer Chicken, most of which were primarily shot at night. While stringers work during the night, Gilroy also noted that the team did not have enough money to close off streets while shooting some scenes, and that at night there was less traffic.
The film was not one of the 31 projects originally selected by the California Film Tax Credit program June for $100 million in credits via a lottery from 380 applications, but it did receive a $2.3 million allocation. Principal photography began on October 6, 2013 in Los Angeles and lasted 27 days. The full production process took approximately 27 weeks from first shot to picture lock.
In North America, Nightcrawler earned $500,000 from early screenings, and grossed $3.2 million on its first day of release. It finished its opening weekend with $10.9 million. Journalists attributed the low sales to Halloween activities, as most people were too preoccupied to watch movies. In its second weekend, Nightcrawler dropped forty-nine percent in sales, and grossed $5.4 million. The film eventually finished with $32.4 million in North America. In the United Kingdom, Nightcrawler opened to £1 million ($1.33 million), and grossed an additional £545,221 ($725,563) in its second weekend. The film would eventually earn $18 million in international territories, and when combined with its North American sales, earned $50.3 million.
Nightcrawler received critical acclaim, with many praising Gyllenhaal's performance and Gilroy's script. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 95%, based on 226 reviews, with a rating average of 8.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Restless, visually sleek, and powered by a lithe star performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler offers dark, thought-provoking thrills." On Metacritic, another review aggregator, the film has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.
Reviewers call Gyllenhaal's character a "charming sociopath" and his performance "a bravura, career-changing tour-de-force." Christy Lemire of the Chicago Sun-Times called Gyllenhaal's performance "supremely creepy" and praised the film's themes and messages. Christopher Orr of The Atlantic compared Gyllenhaal to a young Robert De Niro and his performances in the films Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, feeling Gyllenhaal's character harbored traits shared by De Niro's characters in the two films. Orr called Gyllenhaal "tremendous" in the role and stated that the actor is learning to "channel an eerie, inner charisma, offering it up in glimpses and glimmers rather than all at once." He also declared the role as Gyllenhaal's "best performance to date." Ben Sachs of the Chicago Reader said, "For a first-time director, Gilroy demonstrates an uncommon assurance, not only in his audacious tonal shifts but in the stellar work he elicits from his cast and crew."
In an article in the literary journal Overland, Nightcrawler is described as "[standing] alongside J. C. Chandor's Margin Call as one of the finest directorial debuts of recent years ... and like Margin Call, it is a highly effective exploration of extreme capitalism and contemporary morality."
Conversely, Richard Roeper gave the movie a C+, calling Gyllenhaal's performance "brilliant", but ultimately saying, "[I] didn't buy the ending and there were just too many broad jabs at the TV news business."
Top ten lists
Nightcrawler was listed on many critics' top ten lists of 2014.
- 2nd – Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out (New York)
- 3rd – Matt Goldberg, Collider.com
- 3rd – Erik Davis, Movies.com
- 3rd – Yahoo! Movies
- 4th – Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve
- 4th – James Rocchi, TheWrap
- 4th – Edward Douglass, ComingSoon.net
- 5th – Time Out (London)
- 5th – Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter
- 6th – Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly
- 7th – Tom Brook, BBC
- 7th – Richard Corliss, TIME
- 7th – Adam Chitwood, Collider.com
- 8th – Lou Lumenick, New York Post
- 8th – Inkoo King, TheWrap
- 8th – Drew McWeeny, HitFix
- 8th – Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
- 8th – Noel Murray, The Dissolve
- 8th – William Bibbiani, CraveOnline
- 8th – Harry Knowles, Ain't It Cool News
- 9th – Rafer Guzmán, Newsday
- 9th – Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times
- 10th – Tom Buggermann, Indiewire
- Top 10 (ranked alphabetically) – Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer
- Top 10 (ranked alphabetically) – Claudia Puig, USA Today
- Top 10 (ranked alphabetically) – Justin Lowe, Indiewire
- Top 10 (ranked alphabetically) – Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger
- Top 10 (ranked alphabetically) – Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Top 10 (ranked alphabetically) – Amy Nicholson, The Village Voice
For his performance as Louis "Lou" Bloom, Jake Gyllenhaal received praise from critics, including nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.
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