The best combination I can possibly think of to describe this film is “Pursuit of Happyness” meets “Psycho”. . . Say what?
2014 was full to the brim with critically acclaimed “Dark Films.” I’m not sure if it is just another trend of sorts that we see year after year (Vampires, Zombies, Biblical Stories, Fairy Tales, etc.), but whatever it is, it is taking Hollywood by storm. We have seen this new trend in such films as Gone Girl, Foxcatcher, Whiplash, and now Nightcralwer. The question now remains for us, does this dark tone and message convey any qualities that might be considered “watchable”?
You might be asking yourself, how could it possibly be a mix of the two extremely different films, “Pursuit of Happyness” and “Psycho”? Let me up it this way. There once was a man who tragically could not get a job, noticed, or rewarded for his hard work and learning skills. Then one day he was able to find a new brand of achievement, becoming one of the greatest crime scene investigators of all time. He had to work hard from the very bottom of the field for starters. He brought on a new apprentice who would slowly grow in the field just like he did. He would overcome all areas of obstacles for the sake of his new passion, and even impress the woman who runs the TV station he works with, whom he has had an eye on all the while. He will have to face loss, sacrifice, and determination if he wishes to fulfill his goal of being the best investigator in town, but he is up to the task. Throw in some inspirational, albeit a bit cheesy, 80s themed music and taping, and you have a knock out zero-to-hero inspirational film. Now, throw in a psychopath, and things get interesting.
Pretend said hero was an overly desperate, manipulative, arrogant, cruel, relentless, and above all else, conscienceless individual. If this was the case, this inspiration film would convey a totally different message entirely. In enters Louis Bloom, a man who fits this frightening description. He was all the things we described in the previous paragraph, but one who has these evil tendencies that essentially make him tick. Louis is an individual who appears to have already failed his chance of redemption, there is no glimmer of hope that he might turn around. He is smart and very manipulative, and he will achieve whatever his twisted mind desires. Quite a guy, right?
In short, this film conveys the message of the messed up obsession the public has with tragedy, whether it be intentional or not. This film shows an extreme situation of about the worst individual on the planet to display just why he is successful. The reason he and his corrupt bosses can keep on doing what they do is because we whole heartedly accept their schemes as just keeping “informed.” His only way of surviving is if he can show the most brutal and terrifying of circumstances, all the while making it just barely legal. Why do we keep letting him win?
It is a sobering message for sure. Before we dive into this question, let us look to the films production values. As a work of art, the film is beyond suburb. It’s ability to be nail biting and terrifying, all the while being displayed as a corny 80s film is quite admirable. How it was denied a best picture nom is baffling. But it’s Oscar Snub for Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis is unforgivable. I was under the impression that Tom Hardy (Locke) and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) were by far the best performances of 2014, but his display as an un-repented menace who both terrifies and makes you nervously chuckle from shock definitely threatens to shake up that opinion. He was able to become about the most original character in his own film’s and in possibly Hollywood’s own archives. Rene Russo as his corrupt supervisor/creepy love interest and Riz Ahmed as his morally conflicted intern were likewise phenomenal.
Once again, this was a Clearplay/TVG viewing for me because of its 40+ F words. Yet one might ask, is that enough? This film shows us an individual who is the furthest opposite of Philippians 4:8, which instructs us to think on things which are holy. He has no conscience and no morals, and the reason he thrives is because we have a sick pleasure in his grotesque work. So this film is a moral look at our own culture. Could we stop moral killers in our present day media if we could just stop wanting to fear and obsess over that which is unholy? A truly difficult question indeed, but it is asked in a negative manner while presenting said evil. The oxymoron-ness of it all might be too much for some who do not want to see gruesome images and individuals in their moral tales. Others might be able to distance themselves from the evil enough to enjoy a rich character study, some of the best acting of 2014, and some truly moral conflicting questions. Others might prefer to (rightly) avoid the subject, or look to tamer films projecting the same message (like Hunger Games). Either way, I for one will be avoiding the nightly news for quite a while.