Meet Lou Bloom.
Lou is in dogged pursuit of the American Dream. He knows what he wants in life, he knows what he has to do to get it and he has the determination to succeed. Surely a shining example to thirtysomethings everywhere.
Unfortunately, Lou is also a sociopath and Scary As Fuck.
Lou's the central character in NIGHTCRAWLER, a brilliant, tonally pitch black exploration of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Caring. Bloom runs a small independent news team, cruising late night Los Angeles whilst trawling his police radio scanner. To win in this game, you have to be the first camera on a crime scene. Get the footage - as bloody as possible. "If it bleeds, it leads." notes one of his competitors and he's not wrong. The local TV companies will pay handsomely for grade-A footage. And Bloom will do whatever's necessary to get the exclusive and the sale.
Jake Gyllenhaal has turned in solid acting work for years but this is something else - a "sit up and take notice" situation. Trust me, this is a performance that demands your - and Oscar's - attention. Gyllenhaal is mesmerising as Lou Bloom, whether it be inducting wary new employee Riz Ahmed or relentlessly coming on to tough newsroom boss Rene Russo. In lesser hands, Bloom could easily have been a joke - a stereotype psycho, cranked up to 11. Not here. Gyllenhaal brings the crazy when necessary but delivers it with laser focus and burning intensity. You don't laugh at Lou Bloom. You daren't.
Writer Dan Gilroy doubles up as first-time director on this film and makes an auspicious debut. He paints Los Angeles with neon colours on a black nighttime canvas - a nod to the imagery of THIEF and DRIVE. Two set-pieces stand out - firstly, a tense sequence when Bloom manages to beat even the cops to a multiple homicide. He hurtles around the victims, shooting as much footage as he can before the police black-and-whites arrive at the murder scene. There's also a good old-fashioned car chase in the third act, a refreshing change after the recent CGI-enhanced stunts of the FAST & THE FURIOUS movies.
NIGHTCRAWLER's uncompromisingly dark and cynical heart may be too much for voters come Oscar time. No matter - this will surely end up as one of 2014's best movies.
NIGHTCRAWLER (15) is now showing across the UK.