Nightcrawler- A Review

Dan Gilroy directs Jake Gyllenhaal in the creepy crime drama Nightcrawler based on the life of a desperate and unemployed man who uses his resourcefulness to bring breaking news stories to crime obsessed news networks.

The story begins with Lou Bloom played by the brilliantly creepy Jake Gyllenhaal is stopped mid-heist while he is trying to make away with the wire-fence, using his strangely engaging way of talking (think Aaron Sorkin style dialogue but delivered by someone on valium in slow dulcet tones) he comes near and then overpowers the security guard and makes away with his watch.  When trying to make a sale to a building construction manager he tries to sweet talk him into a job but when he is called a thief he just smiles and walks away. This is Lou Bloom a perfectly nice guy but you get the sense that something isn’t quite right with him.

A chance encounter with a freelance videographer sets Lou on a path which drives the rest of the movie. When trying to make the sale of his first video of a gruesome gun shooting he meets Nina played ably by Rene Russo. Nina is the ratings hungry morally corrupt news producer of what Lou calls as the Vampire shift of the lowest ranking LA news channel.  But Nina soon realizes that Lou could be the ratings golden goose she has been looking for.jake gyllenhaal rene russo nightcrawler

At under 2 hours the movie is crisply written and directed. It takes us on a journey as we learn more about Lou and his ambitions and get increasingly creeped out by the silly grin permanently plastered on his face. During the course of the movie we see Lou talking like an audiobook on management, a self-help book, A Hallmark Card (Friends are the gift we give ourselves) and a performance management cheat sheet that every manager will be familiar with.

Lou is assisted in his twisted venture by Rick played by Riz Ahmed, a homeless guy who answers an Ad by Lou and ends up being his police-code-decrypter and GPS-navigator as Lou races through downtown LA to get to the scene of the crime. Rick plays a moral compass of sorts to Lou but is easily distracted by the prospect of making more money.

As Lou gets better at his job, you start seeing that this strange push-over of a man is no pushover infact. The scene at the Mexican restaurant while laugh-inducing is also particularly creepy as you start seeing what a dangerous man he really is.

Robert Elswit does a most fantastic job of cinematography as the director of photography. He shoots the breakneck pace at which Lou drives with a steady and unwavering precision. The masterful use of the Sodium filled yellow street lights to give the entire landscape a ghoulish glow and flashing red and blue of the police cars to reflect the dancing madness in the eyes of Lou is masterful indeed. In the hands of a lesser director, cinematographer combo  this could have ended up being a hand-held camera shot, nausea inducing chase-fest. But by taking us along for the ride Elswit puts us squarely in the middle of the action and the results are exceptional. At one point I was holding both hands on my head as Lou drives along a police car chase.  The music by James Newton Howard is subtle and understated and does the job perfectly of capturing the still of the night punctured by the crime scenes, those who perpetrated the crimes and those who work tirelessly to enforce the law.

Nightcrawler is an easy entertaining thriller with excellent acting and stunning visuals. But it is also a character study into what drives the people who blur the lines of journalistic ethics to feed the public greed for sensationalized news or perhaps even the paparazzi fueled celeb-obsessed culture of ours. This is a sensational movie for all the above mentioned reasons, which makes no compromises in its characters, its story or its execution.  Do not miss this one because with a relatively weak best actor field this one could be Jake Gyllenhaal’s ticket to the big ball.

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B.A. Pass – A review

First time director Ajay Bahl direct Shadab Kamal and Shilpa Shukla in the B.A.Pass. with the trailers that promised a bold look at coming of age drama and an erotic psychological noir film . What we end up getting is a half-baked, over stylized and a narratively incomplete attempt that leaves a lot to be desired off.

After losing his parents to an accident Mukesh (Kamal) moves in with his aunt and uncle who constantly remind him of what a burden he is on their meager income. Mukesh goes about enduring daily barbs and doing household chores for his aunt when he happens to meet Sarika (Shukla). Sarika lures Kamal in and the movie takes off from there.  The first encounter between Mukesh and Sarika is a little abrupt to say the least. There is no foreplay, no seduction which would make us squirm as we are seeing a supposedly innocent boy being lured into a trap. But that minor misstep aside the pillow talk between Shukla and Kamal is fun and cheeky and gave me hopes that this could deliver on the potential.

In the acting department Shukla has been garnering rave reviews for her portrayal of the strong character that is not afraid to use her sexuality as a weapon. This is the first film I have seen her in after the very impressive Chak De India. Here too there is nothing particularly bad about what she does except that in some of the more intimate scenes she hams it up a little too much for it to appear believable.  As for Kamal he does a better job of being more believable in those intimate scenes. There is intensity to him even in quite scenes and he is someone who clearly has a lot of potential handling complex roles.

Where I found the movie lacking was in the single dimensional treatment of the subject. There are scenes which went on for way too long with no impact on the viewers. The stories of the sisters were mostly forgotten. There are movies that can do with having their running time cut short, in my opinion this movie was missing an entire act where the consequences of the characters action needed to be fleshed out a little more. Based on a short story “The Railway Aunty” the story needed more character development rather than relying on random sex-scenes and chess moves to get the story moving along. Also my perennial gripe with the Indian filmmakers not knowing how to film an intimate scene still continues. We might have written the book on carnal pleasures but when it comes to depicting it on screen we suck real bad (pun may have been intended). This movie was not an entire story in itself it felt more episodic and incomplete. Also the stereotype portrayal of the women Kamal ends up being with is another thing that irked me more than it would to most people because I’ve seen it done better in countless other movies and TV shows, take Hung for that matter. And to underutilize Deepti Naval is a criminal offense.  Also for a movie whose title claims B.A.Pass the character is referred to as 12th pass and he still seems to be going to college, and if the relationship was supposed to grow over the ensuing years of his “education” it was forgotten or left on the editing floors.

The background score by Aloknanda Dasgupta is brilliant and very effective especially when it is nothing more than a loud booming cello bass. I would have walked out had the music not been as great as it was and it did manage to elevate the movie above a  below-average wannabe noir.  The cinematography by Ajay Bahl lends a very Nicholas Winding Refn-ish feel with the Neon lights and the indirect lighting. The visual quality of the film is deserving of a much better narrative then the script by Ritesh Shah.

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When I got up for the national anthem I was surprised to see nearly 70% of the theatre was filled – this on a Tuesday night 11pm show. I thought to myself considering the buzz around the movie the Indian audience is showing up in numbers to encourage such indie movies and that it is a good sign. It only took the first show of skin for the illiterate herd to raise its ugly hyena like cackle.  Seriously we must be amongst the most prude and immature audiences ever. But to those who will contend that I did not like the movie because of the audience let me state that it was offset by the plushest recliners and the most comfortable viewing experience. So I didn’t like the movie because it was just not a good movie.

The only reason I’d recommend anyone to see this movie would be because of the cello bass background score and the Neon-lit cinematography.

7 khoon maaf

7 khoof maaf – vishal bharadwaj’s latest is a movie based on the novel Susana’s seven husbands a novel by Ruskin bond. The movie sees Bharadwaj reteaming with his Kaminey Lead actress Priyanka who plays the titular role of Susana.

Bharadwaj’s previous work includes Makadi a critically acclaimed children’s movie a genre almost unknown in india, Maqbool a reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Omkara a Othello reinterpretation and the hugely successful Kaminey. So understandably the expectations from 7 Khoon Maaf were extremely high, Sitting in a half empty theatre on a Saturday night of the first week of the movie’s release is not necessarily a good sign in these dire economic times. But regardless of the box office outcome of the movie the director deserves kudos for introducing cinema noir .

The husbands played by neil nitin mukesh, an axle-rose inspired John Abraham , A S&M obsessed Irrfan khan, a hindi-speaking-bollywood-crazy Russian spy, a lecherous annu kapoor and the magic mushroom brewing naseerudding shah all pitch in super cameo appearances. Special mention to John Abraham for his almost Christian bale’s machinist inspired emaciated look as a recovering drug addict.

Susana is not alone in her killing spree she is ably assisted by an almost unrecognizable Usha Utthap as Maggie aunty, the butler khan saab and the jockey goonga. New comer Vivaan shah who plays Arun Kumar who adopted by Susana as child harbors a crush on her for all his life and return to do her one last favour is a revelation.

But the movie belongs to Priyanka Chopra who proves her mettle as an actress with this movie. She transitions from a grieving daughter to a battered woman with such ease that it is unnerving . Her scenes with Naseeruddin shah and one with the Russian are simply acting gold. The madness the malice the mirth that drips from her eyes as she circles her prey like the black mamba is unnerving and a little scary as well as a little saddening to see.

Bharadwaj does a brilliant job of keeping the pacing sharp and tight considering you have 6 weddings to go through and albeit 6 murders! I will still maintain that bharadwaj is way too smart for the Indian audiences and he sometimes has to spell out his next(or last ) move so that people would follow – case in point the little blue pill in annu kapoor’s hands does need spelling out but he had to.. and the side effects of taking the little blue pill are also spelled out lest the plot stalls. This I say because the director leaves an unspoken analogy which I am sure a lot of people will miss… so… the scene where Arun returns from St Petersburg he sees a spider on the desk – a Black Mamba spider – a deadly species in which he female spider kills the male spider after mating… this black mamba is crushed by arun using a book he bought as a gift. See really clever right?

This is not a movie that you “go and watch after a week of hectic work to sit back and relax without applying your mind” (not my choice of words). This is a movie that challenges your intelligence and rewards you if you apply yourself. Plus the ending leaves you wondering what exactly happened.

Go see this movie because this may very well be a benchmark for what female performance in Indian movies should be compared against. The physical transformations that Priyanka goes through over the years is sheer commitment to the art. Bravo Priyanka Bravo!

This article is a reproduction from my facebook account.