“If you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy the ticket.”
Lou Bloom may come across as an affable, equitable guy at first, but beneath that veneer is an absolutely vile person who will get what he wants without any regard for others. He is a sociopath, plain and simple, and any destruction he may leave behind merely catapults him to the next level. There’s no disputing that this is a successful man living in a twisted world, someone who will get up into the faces of victims, someone who will move bodies for better shots, and someone who will wear a goofy grin as he’s threatening you.
Jake Gyllenhaal is impeccable as Bloom, his altered physical appearance–those eyes, man–serving the character incredibly well. He can be witty and likable, then quietly menacing the very next second, and a particular dinner scene between him and Rene Russo’s Nina is a highlight. Speaking of, Rene Russo is also great as the director of a low-rated LA morning news show, someone who is perfectly willing to air Lou’s footage in order to bump up the ratings, ethics be damned. You shake your head at Lou moving bodies, but then you see that Nina does a very similar thing when prepping her shows. Also worth noting is Riz Ahmed as Rick, who is charming and innocent and, ultimately, yet another person to be manipulated by Lou Bloom.
Outside of the fantastic performances, this is also a movie drenched in style. Cinematographer Robert Elswit, who we’ll see again in the upcoming Inherent Vice, brings us gorgeous views of Los Angeles at night. The score is purposefully incongruous at times so as to highlight the pairing of Bloom’s despicable nature and his consistent success. Several set pieces are masterful at building tension, and these scenes are shot with an infectious energy that permeates the LA night air. The camera is just the right amount of distance away from Lou, expertly finding a balance between his revolting nature and the possible thrill that results from watching him. It’s an entertaining, darkly funny, and riveting piece of work.
It’s also an obvious satire of ratings-driven TV news, of the “If it bleeds, it leads” mantra and of the world of fear perpetuated by the media. At the same time, it also seems to comment on capitalism, on Big Business, on a broken system taken advantage of by a man with a goal and a drive to succeed. Lou constantly spouts off about the best way to develop his business, and his inspirational sayings have the cadence of all those other people with their can-do attitudes. At the end of the day, though, he’s a hardcore businessman, one who builds connections in order to further his career, and furthermore, he does so while breaking the rules. It’s the “American Dream” warped around self-interest, but it’s also much closer to reality than those who are just starting out may think. If you want to win the lottery, you might have to steal the money to buy the ticket. Or, better yet, just steal the ticket.
-Jake Gyllenhaal’s probably one of the most underrated actors working today. Donnie Darko, Zodiac, Jarhead, etc., plus his recent string of End of Watch, Prisoners, and Enemy.
-Sadly, I don’t think Gyllenhaal is going to get an Oscar nomination, but I can definitely see a Golden Globe nom in his future.
-$8.5 million dollar budget. Impressive.
-Oh hi, Ted Chaough.
-Bloom reminds me of The Driver, just as a complete opposite.
-Television is closer to reality for Lou than actual reality. That’s explained by his “It looks so real on TV” after seeing the city backdrop up close and personal (great shot of him and Nina in front of it, as well), as well as his reactions to watching his own footage.
-Going off the footage, I like that Gilroy chooses not to show certain things in all the scenes, but we do see it all later on a screen. And well, that’s what a lot of people want to see, don’t they?
-Oh, that dinner scene. That’s where you realize, if you haven’t already, that this guy is truly dangerous and that he knows exactly what he’s doing. Of course, at the end of the film, Nina and Lou end up being drawn to each other as the image of Rick is displayed on the screen behind them. Have fun with each other, guys.
– “Maybe the problem isn’t that I don’t understand people; it may just be that I don’t like them.” Most chilling line of the movie.
-So, at the beginning, we’re not sure whether Lou kills the guard or not. At the end, we’re the shown the watch on his wrist, and we now view that scene after having seen what kind of person Lou is. It really goes to show you that TV news is not necessarily the impetus for him hurting someone.
-The final sequence is incredibly tense, from the shootout at the Chinese restaurant all the way through the car chase and Rick’s death. I’m not sure they nail the ending, though; yes, it fits thematically, but it’s a very rushed final few scenes.
– “I won’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.” Cutting to black here would be a more effective ending, although I do get why Gilroy chooses to bring back the out-of-place music at the end.
Photo credit: Nightcrawler, Bold Films