'Nightcrawler' Review: Deep in the Night...
Dan Gilroy's directorial debut, Nightcrawler, is a dark, hazy, and almost satirical view of the American Dream and society's media preferences. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, who is more or less a textbook sociopath with big dreams. He makes a living selling stolen metal, fences, and manhole covers. However, everything he says sounds like he just left a self help seminar on how to be a model employee in American society.
One fateful night introduces him to the world of being a nightcrawler, following grisly and gory newsworthy incidents and catching them on camera to sell them to the highest bidder. Bill Paxton plays the veteran nightcrawler who occasionally serves as Lou's antagonist. Paxton provides a solid supporting performance that shows how years on the job wears on a person. However, once Lou begins to enter this sordid world himself, he finds a new sense of purpose that drives him to the edge, both physically and ethically.
Rene Russo plays the station chief who runs the late night news that Lou sells his footage too. "If It Bleeds, It Leads," is their motto. This news station isn't interested in minority crime unless it involves affluent victims. Murders and car crashes are what pay the bills and bring in the ratings. This seemingly cynical view of the news cycle strikes way closer to home than you'd like to admit; however, if you have watched any local news, you'll see that there may be some truth to the view the film is sharing with us. We're less interested in content but rather enraptured in spectacle.
Russo and Gyllenhaal's relationship in the film is purely transactional. He wants a relationship, purely as a form of physical release, and Russo's character needs good ratings to keep her job. The actual terms of their relationship are spelled out in a very uncomfortably frank dinner date.
While the central characters of the film lack basic empathetic qualities one character resonated with me, Lou's assistant, Rick (played by Riz Ahmed). He's a homeless drifter who's willing to do anything for his $30 a day. However, as he gets deeper into the work with Lou, he realizes he's not what he signed up for. Sure, Lou initially follows dark and tragic stories, but he eventually wants to frame the stories. Rick is an every man that is playing in a game he has no business being in. He's a fungible asset, and that's how Lou views him. Once Lou drags a body from a car accident to get a better shot, he no longer is recording the news, he's making the news.
The climax deals with a high speed car chase that Lou masterfully manipulates into creating just so he can have the footage he craves. When asked if he wants to become a reporter, Lou responds, "No, I want to be the guy that owns the station, that owns the cameras. The true price of success if what somebody's willing to pay for it." Everything he says is calculated and cold, but Lou will stop at nothing to achieve what he wants.
The film really brings to light the dark side of the media, while Gyllenhaal gives a truly incredible performance as the sociopathic and gaunt Lou Bloom. Gyllenhaal has been out the major limelight of big budget pictures, but that's fine with me if he continues to star in movies like Nightcrawler. Both a critique of the drone-like qualities desired in corporate America and societal media consumption, Nightcrawler is as successful a directorial debut as one could hope for.
Final Say: Watch It