Jake Gyllenhaal is a handsome man. Not that he wants you to notice that fact – actually, he’s doing everything he can to try to make you forget it. In Nightcrawler, the directorial debut of The Bourne Legacy screenwriter Dan Gilroy, he plays Lou Bloom, a hollow-eyed sociopath whose advanced resourcefulness and complete lack of empathy for humanity helps him slither up the greasy boom pole of television news.
Gyllenhaal reportedly lost more than two stone, and definitely grew an oily little Pebbles Flintstone topknot, to portray Lou, whose amoral depravity – from rearranging crime scenes to withholding information about homicides in order to protract a story – is surely designed to embody everything that is rewarded in today’s invasive media culture.
As satires go it’s diverting, if a little silly – at one point Bloom and his “love” interest, head of news Nina (Rene Russo), share a quasi-orgasmic moment while watching a particularly bloody piece of footage – but it’s definitely as far away from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Gyllenhaal’s not particularly successful 2010 toe-dip into action blockbuster territory, as he could hope to get.
Gyllenhaal’s always had a knack for portraying conflicted outsiders, from Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain or the eponymous Donnie Darko in his 2001 breakthrough, to the Denis Villeneuve-directed indie Enemy (out 2 January, 2015), in which he played a college professor and also his mysterious doppelganger. It doesn’t look like it’s a habit he’s planning on quitting any time soon, given that among the roles he has coming up are a dodgy politician in Nailed, director David O Russell’s financially troubled movie about a waitress (Jessica Biel) who gets a nail accidentally lodged in her head, and boxing drama Southpaw, in which he plays a renegade welterweight with a drug habit.
But just in case you were thinking he was getting ready to bust out his pecs again, Persian Prince style (and from the evidence of shots of him at a Vegas gym they’re certainly primed and ready) he’s following it up with real-life drama Everest about a doomed attempt to scale the notorious peak. Even the Gyllenhunk will struggle to sex up a thermal balaclava.
Nightcrawler is out on 31 October