Nightcrawler

 

TV news is a competitive business. Every station wants the big story. Some will pay good money to freelancers with video cameras for exclusive footage.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an L.A. ne’er-do-well who wants to go legit. As Nightcrawler begins, he sells fence (chain link) to a fence (guy who buys stolen goods) and asks the buyer for a job. When Lou happens upon a news photog (Bill Paxton) shooting video to sell to TV, he decides to try it himself.

Lou finds a willing buyer in Nina (Rene Russo), a news director at an L.A. station whose ratings need help. Lou continues to bring graphic footage to her and the ratings inch upward. “If it bleeds, it leads” is a TV industry half-joke, one with more than a grain of truth behind it. In the battle to titillate news viewers, Nina keeps asking for shocking video.

As the checks roll in, Lou hires an assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed). He buys a new, faster car. He gets better monitoring equipment to listen in on police calls.

Lou is a scheming pragmatist who aggressively woos Nina with logical arguments and, of course, exclusive video. His online research tells him that she has had trouble keeping a job and that she will soon be up for renewal. She needs him.

Lou boldly goes into places he shouldn’t to get juicy footage. Eventually he goes too far. But even when he oversteps, he continues to bring the goods to Nina and her news team. She has few boundaries regarding what she’ll put on air and Lou responds. Nightcrawler may exaggerate the lengths TV stations will go to lure viewers, but not by much.

Gyllenhaal’s Lou is a likeable charmer. He’s a bit smarmy, not far removed from Leave It To Beaver’s Eddie Haskell. Even though he does things that are wrong, it’s easy to root for him. He’s also funny—though not always intentionally.

After last year’s excellent performance as a detective in Prisoners, Gyllenhaal follows with a completely different character and another memorable role. At age 33, he has already amassed a respectable acting resume. As he moves into more mature roles, I look forward watching him grow into a major film star.

It’s good to see Rene Russo back onscreen. Except for the Thor movies, she’s been absent for the last decade. At age 60, she brings appropriate intensity to her role as Nina.

I’m happy to report that rookie director Dan Gilroy (he also wrote the script) did not make Nightcrawler to rip into the TV news biz for its love of crime and gore. He accepts that as a given. Instead he focuses on bringing this interesting character and his story to the screen. Good jobs, Dan and Jake!

 

 

 

 

2 Guns

2 Guns is good, but could’ve been better. It’s an action/comedy. That combination requires a delicate hand to keep both elements in balance. Sadly, as its title suggests, 2 Guns leans more heavily to the action side.

Moviegoers will buy tickets to 2 Guns for its stars, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Their interaction onscreen is fun and highly entertaining, but the film does not have enough of them together.

The hook is that Bobby (Washington) and Stig (Wahlberg) are a DEA agent and a US Navy operative, respectively, but neither knows that the other is working for the government. After an unconsummated drug deal in Mexico and a lucrative bank robbery in Texas, they figure a few things out. But there are big twists and surprises to come.

The story gets complicated, but don’t be too concerned about the plot and things that don’t get explained. All scores get settled in the end.

Bobby and Stig pursue, and are pursued. Main players are drug lord Papi (Edward James Olmos), interested third party Earl (Bill Paxton) and Navy agent Quince (James Marsden). Fellow DEA agent Deb (Paula Patton) is Bobby’s sometime squeeze, but their relationship has had its ups and downs.

2 Guns is directed by Iceland native Baltasar Kormakur, who also directed Wahlberg in last year’s Contraband.

While Wahlberg and Washington don’t have Newman/Redford type chemistry, they are fun to watch together. When two of our most talented and likeable stars are in an action/comedy movie together, they should be in the movie—together. The sum of the parts is greater when Bobby and Stig are in the same frame.

2 Guns is far from a “must-see,” but if you like Washington and Wahlberg, you’ll have fun with this one. Rated R. Violence, language, slight boobage.

“Haywire” =Gina WHO???=

In “Haywire,” a star is born. The film’s female lead Gina Carano is unknown to most moviegoers. She has achieved a level of fame as an MMA fighter and an “American Gladiator.” Her good looks, her adequate acting skills and her abilities as a fighter guarantee her a future in movies.

The convoluted plot is almost secondary to the constant action that surrounds the character Mallory Kane, played by Carano. Chase scenes in cars and on foot, kidnappings, shootings and hand-to-hand battles are the movie’s key elements. Director Steven Soderbergh shoots the film stylishly with a number of clever subjective camera angles. Carano/Kane’s fight scenes are the best since the last Jason Bourne movie—realistically staged and intense.

Several well-known male actors play Mallory Kane’s various allies and foes. They are Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender and Bill Paxton.

The action kicks off with a violent face-off between Carano and Tatum in a roadside café in upstate New York. The plot unfolds with scenes in Barcelona, Dublin, rural New Mexico and along the Pacific coastline.

A highlight of the film is the cool soundtrack by David Holmes who scored much of the music for Soderbergh’s three “Ocean’s” movies. He provides rhythmic, up tempo music that is just right for this film.

Go for the action. Go for this new female fighter. Go for the strong male cast. Go for the music. Go to unravel the plot.

“Haywire” delivers 93 minutes of solid movie entertainment. Casting an unknown as the female lead was not a haywire decision—the result makes perfect sense to me.