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Sunday April 2nd 2023

Nightcrawler | 2014

Nightcrawler location: Figueroa Terrace, Echo Park, Los Angeles
Nightcrawler location: Lou's modest apartment: Figueroa Terrace, Echo Park, Los Angeles | Photograph: Google Maps

Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut is set in a benighted Los Angeles, largely avoiding familiar neighbourhoods, though the eagle-eyed may spot a few places you might have seen on screen before.

The standard images are quickly dispensed with during the opening credits montage – the downtown skyline, the domes of the Griffith Observatory, nodding donkeys pumping ceaselessly in Baldwin Hills and the cylinder of the Capitol Records tower in Hollywood.

The apartment of loner Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), where he does little but watch TV, surf the net and water a single houseplant, is 1045 Figueroa Terrace, near White Knoll Drive, just southwest of Dodger Stadium. The neighbourhood is a fairly unprepossessing area of Echo Park, but its hills offer a tantalising view of the downtown highrises, and a relentless diet of self-improvement courses has fired up Lou’s ambition.

He could almost be a West Coast nephew of Travis Bickle, until a chance encounter offers a way out of his meagre existence, peddling filched chain-link fencing and manhole covers as scrap metal.

Lou comes across Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) and a freelance video crew filming the aftermath of a bloody accident on the '110'. Or so the film claims. It’s actually the 105 south of LAX, beneath the Raytheon building in El Segundo.

“If it bleeds, it leads.” Grins the cynical Loder, who sells his footage on to local TV companies, and so plants in Lou’s mind the idea for a whole new career opportunity.

A visit to the Venice Boardwalk sees light-fingered Lou in possession of a sports bike which he’s able to exchange for the tools of his new trade – a camcorder and a police scanner.

Nightcrawler film location: Bob's Market, Bellevue Avenue, Echo Park, Los Angeles
Nightcrawler: Lou sits in his Dodge Challenger waiting to intercept police messages: Bob’s Market, Bellevue Avenue, Echo Park, Los Angeles

One recognisable location from a previous film is Bob’s Market, 580 East Kensington Road, a few blocks west of Lou’s apartment, outside which he sits in his red Dodge Challenger listening to the police messages for his first video opportunity.

It’s barely seen in the gloom, but Bob’s famously became ‘Toretto’s’, the diner owned by Vin Diesel in the original The Fast And The Furious.

Lou gets his first graphic footage after a violent carjacking over in Midtown, on West 1st Street at the junction with North Western Avenue, west of Koreatown.

‘KWLA-6’, the TV station where Lou’s bloody scoop is eagerly snapped up by desperate news editor Nina Romina (Rene Russo) is KTLA-5, 5819 Sunset Boulevard, at Van Ness Avenue, in East Hollywood. The station stands alongside the Sunset Bronson Studios, the historic site where Warner Bros’ The Jazz Singer, the first talkie, was filmed in 1927.

Nightcrawler location: Dinah's, South Sepulveda, Culver City
Nightcrawler location: Lou recruits Rick as an intern: Dinah's, South Sepulveda, Culver City

Not content to be just one more stringer, Lou now sees himself as an entrepreneur and is soon offering an unpaid internship to the unemployed Rick (Riz Ahmed). The restaurant in which he conducts his brisk job interview is Dinah’s Family Restaurant, 6521 South Sepulveda, in Culver City. A retro delight, dating from 1959, you need to be a sharp-eyed location spotter to recognise this as the hangout of the German Nihilists in The Big Lebowski.

The new company boss sits atop the roof of the Challenger in the parking lot of Angelino’s Bakery, 1522 West Sunset Boulevard in the little strip mall at Laveta Terrace, Echo Park, as his new employee waits in the car for their first assignment.

It takes a few attempts for Lou to find his feet, but he’s an unforgiving taskmaster. He chides Rick for spilling gas at Studio City Shell gas station, 12007 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City in the San Fernando Valley. Just across Ventura Boulevard, by the way, stands Du-par's, the all-night restaurant seen in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights.

It’s just west on Ventura that Rick is extolling the virtues of Bed, Bath and Beyond as they’re stuck at lights by Whitsett Avenue when news of a crash – with injuries – comes through.

It’s up on dodgily curvy Mulholland Drive, overlooking the city, that Lou artfully arranges the unattended victim to get the perfect framing he’s looking for.

Lou’s determination and sheer callousness bring success and he soon finds himself offered a partnership by the rattled Loder, but he’s his sights much higher.

A date with the much older Nina in a Mexican restaurant, which promises to be a Graduate-style evening of social embarrassment, takes a disturbing and darkly funny turn when Lou’s true intentions are plainly laid out.

Nightcrawler location: El Compadre, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood
Nightcrawler location: Lou takes Nina to the Mexican restaurant: El Compadre, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood | Photograph: Google Maps

The Mexican restaurant is El Compadre, 7408 Sunset Boulevard, opposite the Guitar Center in Hollywood. Considering its location, you won’t be surprised to find it’s something of a celeb hangout.

Lou’s audacity pays off in spades. When he’s the sole witness to a triple homicide, he sits on vital information until he can set up the perps in a suitably photogenic location before tipping off the cops.

Nightcrawler location: Chinatown Express, Koreatown, Los Angeles
Nightcrawler location: Lou sets up the shootout: Chinatown Express, Koreatown, Los Angeles | Photograph: Google Maps

The set-up which turns, as Lou hoped, into bloody mayhem, is in the ideally glass-walled and well-lit Chinatown Express, 252 South Western Avenue at West 3rd Street, back in Koreatown.

The ensuing car chase seems to cover a lot of ground, though not in Koreatown. 10 blocks of Laurel Canyon Boulevard, between Ventura Boulevard and Vanowen Street in North Hollywood, were closed off for five consecutive nights, to capture the carnage – which ends in a smash and an unexpected death on Laurel Canyon Boulevard at Sylvan Street.

Lou has a lot of explaining to do, but acquits himself with his usual brand of bullshit and Teflon-coated assurance, confidently exiting LAPD Hollywood Station, 1358 North Wilcox Avenue at DeLongpre Avenue, for once in bright sunshine and beneath the ultimate signifier of success, the Hollywood sign.