Night Crawlers (2014), Fury (2014), Before I Go to Sleep (2014)


Nightcrawlers is worth seeing as a grimly humorous tale about local TV news and its audience. Director-writer Dan Gilroy takes it to the extreme: Petty criminal Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) stumbles onto the business of supplying footage of violence to Los Angeles TV stations as the main fodder for local news programs. The camera crews are independent businesses tuned to police radio who race one another to accident and violent crime scenes hoping to obtain video of gore and blood, the more the better, with a premium on the graphic. They sell the video to TV managers in charge of news programming.

In Nightcrawler, everyone with any intelligence is a veteran cynic: TV people know that their viewers, like many fans of auto racing, most want to see blood–victims of car accidents, home invasions, industrial accidents, fires, and so on. Ratings depend on how much blood you can show: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Bloom, a formidable autodidact from searching the Internet on all kinds of topics and a natural ruthless businessman, eventually begins to create violent scenes by manipulation, covertly arranging to bring criminals and police together in instances where shootings are inevitable and filming the scenes. He becomes a sort of director and stage manager of bloody videos he instigates, a logical outcome for Dan Gilroy in his skewering of the “news” media. Bloom has the advantage over his fellow cynics in being sociopathic–he has no empathy for the bleeding and moaning victims at the scenes of violence; they mean nothing to him; Patricia Highsmith would approve of Bloom as authentic Homo sapiens. Gyllenhaal’s fine performance is matched by Rene Russo as the pitiless and cynical as well as vulnerable Nina, manager of the News programs on a large Los Angeles station. Nightcrawlers is a latter day version of Network: there is more violence and less charm but the humor is largely the same. Gilroy writes fine dialog. The acting and the filming are excellent. There is a story here. And some healthy ridiculing laughter. No redemption, though.

Fury, a World War Two movie about tank warfare, hasn’t missed many cliches of the platoon story. Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) is a veteran commander who has led his crew of the tank, “Fury,” through much combat toward the end of the war. Now they are in Europe in 1945 where they are assigned and perform a dangerous mission to block counterattacking Nazi forces. The horrors of combat are shown unflinchingly amidst mud, grime and the Fog of War. Much time is spent on the relationships of the crew to one another, and Fury is unlike many older war movies in its insistent attempt to delve the psychology of buddies under stress. A sort of hard-boiled touchy-feely movie.

Before I Go to Sleep is a bad movie. Implausible. Nicole Kidman performs well as a woman with a very odd case of amnesia (she can’t recall anything for longer than a day but she manages to move around her house and to drive the local roads as though such have become second nature to her), and she can’t rescue this bomb. Colin Firth mails in his part as Kidman’s husband (make that “husband”) and the few other actors struggle unsuccessfully against the silly storyline. The last scene is the definition of maudlin. You’ll leave the theater or turn away from your TV feeling that you’ve been had.