by Tony Medley
Runtime 117 minutes
OK for children.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives a tour de force as an unscrupulous “stringer”
cameraman shooting violent nighttime news events in Los Angeles.
Although it lasts almost two hours, it’s tightly written and directed by
Dan Gilroy. I’m generally hard on movies that run longer than 90 minutes
but I didn’t see anything that could have been cut.
It is a faithful production of Los Angeles TV news. The realism is even
more profound because it was shot on location at KTLA, Channel 5 in Los
Angeles, which is LA’s most iconic TV station. KTLA was the first
commercially licensed TV station in the West (1947), and was the home of
people like Daws Butler and Stan Freberg who were the principal actors
in Time for Beany that started in 1949 (it was one of Albert
Einstein’s favorite shows, and mine, too) on KTLA. If any station is
loved by longtime Angelenos, it is KTLA, which was owned by Gene Autry
from 1963-82 (Gene bought KTLA and radio station KMPC for $12 million
and sold them for $245 million).
Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a sneak thief who by chance falls into filming
late night violence and selling his videos to local TV stations as an
independent stringer. He meets Nina (Rene Russo), the 50-ish News
Director at KWLA, who recognizes his “talent,” and jumps at the chance
to use his graphic footage to raise KWLA’s ratings.
While Nina is a caricature, not unlike Faye Dunaway’s character who
exploited Peter Finch’s “Mad as hell” character in 1976’s Network,
she’s not quite as over the top as Faye, and is, therefore, a little
more believable. As the movie progresses, however, the relationship
between Lou and Nina develops to where there’s a question as to who is
Lou hires an “apprentice,” Rick (Riz Ahmed), whom he shamelessly
The progress of the film is exemplified by the car Lou drives. In the
first part of the film when he’s starting out, he drives a blue Toyota
Tercel and uses a basic hi def video camera. Then, when he gets
successful, he suddenly appears in a red Challenger with a professional
camera with a good microphone.
Another exceptional part of the movie is the car driving. Lou drives
fast and scares the wits out of Rick. At the climax, there’s a chase
through the streets of Los Angeles that, while relatively preposterous,
is so well filmed that it elicits memories of the classic car chase in
The terrific script is buttressed by atmospheric cinematography (Robert
Elswit) and tension-enhancing music (James Newton Howard). It is also an
homage to Los Angeles as there were approximately 75 different locations
used during the filming.
October 21, 2014