(US - 2019)
Written and directed by Dan Gilroy. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, Marco Rodriguez, Mark Steger, Steven Williams, Alan Mandell, Pat Healy, Nitya Vidyasagar, Mig Macario, Sedale Threatt Jr, Andrea Marcovicci, Christopher Darga, Ian Alda. (R, 112 mins)
Since shifting to directing with 2014's acclaimed NIGHTCRAWLER, veteran journeyman screenwriter Dan Gilroy (FREEJACK, CHASERS) has demonstrated a knack for getting top-shelf performances from his actors. Jake Gyllenhaal's work in NIGHTCRAWLER remains his career-best and one of the most egregious Oscar snubs in recent memory. Gilroy guided Denzel Washington to yet another Academy Award nomination for 2017's legal thriller ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ, and while those two films share common themes, they also share similar flaws. Gyllenhaal is so great in NIGHTCRAWLER that he single-handedly allows you to overlook the borderline naivete of the film's core observation that--SPOILER--people in the news media often resort to dubious tactics for a scoop and even--find the nearest fainting couch--sensationalize stories for ratings, something that wasn't even a shocking notion when NETWORK came out in 1976. Likewise, ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ is carried by the exemplary work of Washington in service of a story that blows the doors off the idea that lawyers might become cynical and greedy after years on the job and may make decisions that aren't in the best interest of their clients. There's nothing wrong with the stories of NIGHTCRAWLER and ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ in and of themselves, but while watching them, one gets the feeling that Gilroy thinks he's really on to something that no one's ever considered before. His two directorial efforts up to now are pretty good movies blessed by stars who heroically carry them on their shoulders and take them to the next level.