Reviewed by: Donald Munro

"Although far from subtle, the metaphor of man as corporation is skillfully hidden behind black comedy, intense action and artful cinematography."

What would a man look like if he behaved like a corporation, if he were to exploit everyone he met, if he were to destroy his competitors, if he were to take beyond anything justified by his need for comfort or survival?

Gaunt and unhealthy Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) will steal anything he can sell, haggle, tout himself for any job with any employer. We see him first as a thief steeling chain link fence and assaulting a guard. We see him bargain at the scrapyard and pawn shop. For Louis it isn't just about survival on the streets of Los Angeles. His lifestyle suits him; he is a predator and he enjoys it. There is however something that Louis is better at. He can set his sights higher than a career in petty crime. While prowling the streets he comes across two ambulance chasing journalists filming a car crash. He muscles into their exploitative and amoral world with sociopathic zeal.

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The TV stations their management, owners and presenters are all complicit in Louis' gross intrusions into the lives and deaths of ordinary people. Louis' commodification of people is guided by them. A black or Hispanic death in a ghetto is worthless as news, a white woman running down the street with her throat slit is another matter. The treatment of his subjects extends to those he works with. He underpays and mistreats his employee and assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed) and coerces his editor Nina Romina (Rene Russo) into a sexual relation ship in some of the most uncomfortable scenes in the film.

Although far from subtle, the metaphor of man as corporation is skillfully hidden behind black comedy, intense action and artful cinematography. The film taps into the language of found-footage horror and cop shows as well as newsreel. Often a shallow depth of field is combined with a camera's view finder to eliminate the middle ground and place the cameraman, Louis, in the heart of the action. Action that Louis eventually ends up manipulating.

Gyllenhaal's portrayal of Louis as dark, creepy and unlikeable is counterpointed by Ahmed's Rick - likeable, enthusiastic and somewhat naive. Rick provides brief points of moral focus that we know won't last.

Reviewed on: 02 Nov 2014
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A young journalist embraces corruption as he becomes the star of his stories.
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Director: Dan Gilroy

Writer: Dan Gilroy

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton

Year: 2014

Runtime: 117 minutes

Country: US


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