Nightcrawler (Blu-ray)

February 11, 2015 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Jake  Gyllenhaal is one of those actors that I’ve never really had an opinion on.  I mean, yes, I’ve seen his films and there’s definitely talent there, but he’s never really been a draw for me to watch a film.  I wasn’t a big fan of Brokeback Mountain, I liked Zodiac and Donnie Darko was never really my cup of tea (oh who am I kidding…glass of wine). However I have to say that when an actor gets a good part, it shows. And after all the praise that he’s received for Nightcrawler, my interest was piqued for sure. Then again he was snubbed of an Oscar nomination and….they always get it right, don’t they? Of course they do.  But after pestering the PR agent, I finally got my copy and watched it. Well, watch is such a pedestrian word, I’ll say that I experienced it. This is Charlize Theron in Monster. This is Heath Ledger in The Dark Night and Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump all rolled into one.  In a word, he’s amazing. Let’s begin.

Gyllenhaal played Lou Bloom, a hapless drifter trying to make ends meet in Los Angeles. If he’s not stealing bikes from Venice Beach, he’s stealing manhole covers for extra cash. Lou needs some direction in life. His direction seemingly finds him when he witnesses a car accident and pulls over, mesmerized, to investigate. He meets Joe (Bill Paxton) in passing, seeing him take gruesome footage which he sells to the local news for broadcast. Lou is smitten. He gets himself into the game and subsequently hits it off with a news director (Rene Russo). He hires an assistant as things start to take off. However, the morally inept Lou is constantly pushing the boundaries – crossing police lines and even entering into crime scenes before the police can arrive. Yes it makes great footage, but at what cost? Is there a line that Lou won’t cross to get the shot or will his ethics be his ultimate demise?

Nightcrawler is a great movie with a top notch (if not aging) cast. But the real star of the show is, of course, Gyllenhaal. His performance is nearly beyond words and I’ve got a newfound respect for him as an actor.  I’ll say that the subject matter might not be for everyone, but I was just so mesmerized by what I was seeing on screen that it was hard to focus on anything else.  The supporting cast is small with Rene Russo and Bill Paxton playing some supporting parts.  Joe’s sidekick, Rick (Riz Ahmed) is nearly as good in his part as Gyllenhaal is in his. And the film isn’t afraid to expose the seedy underworld of Los Angeles. It’s good to see A List actors take these roles and really take chances. Granted Gyllenhaal doesn’t have a whole lot to prove to anyone, so it’s all the more reason for him to look for more roles like this. In a word this film and the performance is amazing.

Video: How’s it look?

The title is not at all misleading. There are only a handful of scenes in the daytime/daylight, so this really is a dark film in its most literal sense. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image embraces the night. Thankfully the image really isn’t ever compromised. Gyllenhaal’s physical look in the film seems to suggest that he lost a lot of weight for the role, his deep set eyes cast dark shadows underneath. His slicked back hair radiates a texture that looks amazing.  Contrast and black levels work well off one another and I was hard-pressed to find any instances with crush, pixelating or macro blocking. Even the red hues of blood look amazing and while this might encompass the entire color spectrum, it’s still an amazing-looking transfer.

Audio: How’s it sound?

I wouldn’t have thought that this would have such a rich, robust soundtrack. Then again that’s what happens when I think. The included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack explodes to life within the first few minutes. Granted, this isn’t something that’s so “in your face” you’ll think it’s a war movie, but it’s got some key moments that really stood out to me. Vocals are rich, crisp and pure. Gyllenhaal’s character articulation is part of what makes the character work and it pours out of the channels with the utmost clarity. Couple that with some of the car chase scenes that really engage the LFE and the surrounds and you’ve got yourself a nice-sounding track.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Audio Commentary – If ever the term “family business” was used in Hollywood, this one would just about take the cake. Director Dan Gilroy along with Tony (Producer) and John (Editor) collaborate for a very funny, fast-pace and informative track. Dan takes the lion’s share of the comments with others adding a bit here and there, but the three obviously work very well together and clearly had a passion for the project. If you loved the film, and I’m certainly one that did, this is a must listen.
  • If it Bleeds, It Leads: Making Nightcrawler – Coming off the audio commentary is a rather boring and bland (and all too short) “Making of…” featurette that has some talking heads and serves as a glorified trailer. Better to have than have not? I suppose, but skip it.
  • DVD/Digital Copy

The Bottom Line?

Nightcrawler is a throwback to the movies of the 80’s and the seedy, dark and sometimes surreal vision of Los Angeles. I was reminded of some of Michael Mann’s films that celebrate the night oh so well. Jack Gyllenhaal’s performance is perhaps his finest to date and it’s how show from beginning to end. His on edge, neurotic persona coupled with exquisite direction by Dan Gilroy make for one of the better films I’ve seen in a while. Yes, the Blu-ray is lacking in the supplemental department, but this might be one of those that you buy just so you can watch it whenever you want. Highly recommended.

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