'Nightcrawler': What the Critics Are Saying

Jake Gyllenhaal (30 pounds lighter) plays a lonely sociopath who decides to enter the cutthroat world of freelance TV news reporting in Dan Gilroy's debut drama

Nightcrawler, out on Friday, stars Jake Gyllenhaal (30 pounds lighter) as a lonely sociopath who decides to enter the cutthroat world of freelance TV news reporting, only to find himself slowly edging towards the wrong side of the crime tape. Writer-director Dan Gilroy makes his feature debut with the Los Angeles-set drama, also starring Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton (plus cameos by famed L.A. newscasters Pat Harvey, Kent Shocknek and Bill Seward).

The Open Road Films title, produced and financed by Bold Films, is expected to debut in the $9 million to $10 million range.

See more New 'Nightcrawler' Trailer Puts Jake Gyllenhaal at the Scene of the Crime

Read what top critics are saying about Nightcrawler:

The Hollywood Reporter's Jordan Mintzer calls it "a movie that constantly oscillates – sometimes impressively and sometimes tediously — between neo-noir and contemporary satire." Gilroy "has a talent for depicting uneasy characters in queasy situations, and he subjects his hero to all sorts of unsettling moments, mining a couple of them for genuine laughs. ... Yet like his erratic protagonist, Gilroy doesn’t always know when to settle down or call it quits, and the film’s constant shifts of tone can grow tiring, even if the action as a whole never gets boring. And while the narrative picks up again in a third act that features a gruesome home invasion captured live on tape, culminating in a white-knuckle action sequence that was justly applauded at Nightcrawler’s Toronto world premiere, there are too many screws loose here to make for a completely solid picture."

Still, "Gyllenhaal does a fantastic job channeling Louis’ outrageous and overwrought personality, whether he’s offering up lame sermons on entrepreneurship or tying his greasy long hair into a knot." Also, the directorial debut "benefits from an accomplished technical package, highlighted by sharp widescreen cinematography from Robert Elswit (who’s worked regularly with Paul Thomas Anderson) that captures the L.A. backdrops in an array of bright color, and a score by James Newton Howard that recalls the hypnotic melodies he composed for Michael Mann’s Collateral."

Read more Jake Gyllenhaal on Producing, 'Nightcrawler' Cuts and How "Acting Is Incredibly Selfish"

The New York Times' A. O. Scott writes that it "never attains anywhere near the gravity or the impact of Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. Its message — that the news media feeds a morbid fascination with atrocity — is hardly implausible, but the target is more than a little shopworn, and the stance of queasy outrage feels secondhand, not to say a bit hypocritical. ... The chasing after important themes is a distraction. Nightcrawler is a modest and effectively executed urban thriller, suspenseful and entertaining in its clammy, overwrought way. Gyllenhaal’s performance, while not remotely persuasive, is disciplined and meticulous in its creepiness, and Gilroy keeps the audience off balance, fascinated and repelled, half rooting for Lou to succeed, and half dreading what he will do next."

The New Yorker's Anthony Lane says "the whole thing is dangerously beautiful" and "a racing pulse. The momentum and clarity leave us with a sense that we have seen something being reported, not dreamed up—a vital advantage, in a story about the ravening quest for news." Also, "what lends it a cultural charge that was missing from a film like Gone Girl, and what makes Lou’s story so much more than a parable of prurience [is that] the film has the dirty rustle of money." Altogether, "Nightcrawler has patches of clunkiness, to be sure. ... Yet the movie is quite something, and, despite its title, it doesn’t really crawl. It scuttles ahead, wide-eyed, antennae waving, on a journey to the end of the night, and toward a future when nothing will not be shown."

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The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan explains that it's "pulp with a purpose. A smart, engaged film powered by an altogether remarkable performance by Gyllenhaal, it is melodrama grounded in a disturbing reality, an extreme scenario that is troubling because it cuts close to the bone. ...  Gilroy's lean, straight-ahead direction pulls us along with him, aided by the editing of John Gilroy (another brother) and cool, seductive cinematography by the veteran Elswit (an Oscar winner for There Will Be Blood) that makes Los Angeles look like the dream and the nightmare rolled into one."

The Guardian's Henry Barnes notes it as "violently entertaining" as it "unfurls into a ghoulish and wickedly funny satire on journalism, the job market and self-help culture." Gyllenhaal "is so dedicated, and Gilroy’s world so determinedly realized that it forces its way to originality." Altogether, "Nightcrawler may be murky, ... [but it] is a nasty, funny film. A tribute to the vile and a celebration of the dark."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee