Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton
Director: Dan Gilroy
It's clear from the get-go that Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a seriously creepy individual. The kind of person who looks right through you when you're speaking to him--the one-track brain focused on whatever grisly obsession is occupying it at the time.
Bloom is a petty thief, and right off we observe him punching out a security guard who has happened upon him stealing chain-link fencing. But he's not satisfied with his lowly station in life. He has ambition, and he's an opportunist, searching for that spark of an idea that will catapult him into the big time. He finds it when he begins stumbling across accident scenes, observing the "nightcrawlers," or free-lance videographers doing their work. He gets himself a camera and a police radio and he's in business.
Lucky for him there's a TV station in L.A. that will run the gory footage he obtains on their nightly news. (Here's where I thought the script was a mite over the top, as most stations still show at least some discretion about such things, but maybe we're not far away from that.)
Nina (Rene Russo) is the news director of said media outlet. A little paranoid about hanging onto her job at a station whose ratings are in the toilet. In Lou she sees the perfect collaborator. By scooping the other stations in la la land with the bloody or sensational footage Lou provides, she envisions the pathway to her own salvation. He pressures her to include sex in their working relationship and she accedes, an indicator of how far she is willing to compromise to obtain her own objectives.
At one point we realize that they are total kindred spirits, and that's where Nightcrawler makes its cynical statement. Yes, it's a character study about sociopaths, but it's also saying something about the public that eats this kind of stuff up. The law of supply and demand.
Gyllenhaal has a Golden Globe nomination for his work here, and deservedly so. It's a multi-layered performance with elements of dark comedy, as all the while Lou is revealing himself as an entity without a whit of empathy or human compassion, he's lecturing his assistant in a moralistic fashion about the importance of good business practices.
Grade: B +