Jake Gyllenhaal turns in a stellar performance as a freelance L.A crime journalist in Nightcrawler - a pulsing thriller set for release this week. The actor remains one of the most underrated lead stars in Hollywood though Dan Gilroy's (One for the Money, The Fall) directorial debut could be the film that propels him into the top rung of U.S stars.

Jake GyllenhaalJake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom in 'Nightcrawler'

Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a keen young man desperate for work in the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. He stumbles upon a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires and murders. Seizing his opportunity, Lou crowbars his way into the world of 'nightcrawling', following the police sirens and chasing the bucks.  Rene Russo provides strong support as a cutthroat TV producer hungry for exclusive news.

"It scuttles ahead, wide-eyed, antennae waving, on a journey to the end of the night, and toward a future when nothing will not be shown," said Anthony Lane of the New Yorker.

"This is a terrific performance by Gyllenhaal, completely inhabiting a spook of a man, a ghoul to remember," said David Sexton of This Is London.

"Gyllenhaal, who summons career-best work, simply couldn't have played this character a few years ago," wrote Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York.

"First and foremost, the film is a showcase for its wiry and wired star, and for the fascinatingly amoral anti-hero he brings to life," wrote A.A. Dowd of the AV Club.

"Switch off that television and head out to the cinema: Gyllenhaal is sensational headlining a pitch-black satire with its finger on the pulse," wrote Jamie Graham of Total Film.

Currently available at 33/1 to win Best Actor at the Oscars, Gyllenhaal remains miles behind the likes of Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) as far as the bookies are concerned - but the bookies don't know anything about movies and the Californian born actor could be worth a couple of quid.

Watch Jake Gyllenhaal in the 'Nightcrawler' trailer: