Add Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepy videographer Lou Bloom to the long list of deranged American loners and sociopaths. It’s not too hard to envision Bloom and his amoral anti-hero antics being somehow related by blood to Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle (immortally played by the great Robert De Niro).
Nightcrawler is a darkly twisted satire on modern day journalism and media ethics, and those who are still hungry enough to chase the “American Dream” by any means necessary.
The unhinged and oddly charismatic Bloom considers himself a savvy business-type, whose work ethic and unshakeable persistence will afford him everything he thinks he deserves in this life.
Set during the magic hours of a smog-ridden Los Angeles, we first meet an out-of-work and desperate Bloom trying anything in his power to convince an employer to give him a shot. Rejected (yet again we assume) and accused of being a thief, Bloom’s employment outlook seems bleak, until a violent car accident offers him a radical new career prospect. Witnessing, first-hand, the crash and subsequent news coverage, Bloom is exposed to a line of work he knows he could be very good at. Capturing and selling tapes of graphic crimes and accidents to sell to the highest bidder.
The methodical and relentless Bloom transforms himself into a ‘nightcrawler’. Someone who prowls police radios in order to be the first on scene to record the very worst that his city has to offer.
“I like to say, if you’re seeing me, you’re having the worst day of your life.”
It’s rather dark and morbid storytelling, but it’s also riveting and wildly entertaining as well.
An almost unrecognisable Jake Gyllenhaal nearly completely disappears somewhere behind Bloom’s wired eyes and gauntly-sunken face to deliver a performance we’ve all been waiting for. Desperate and unskilled, yet confident and driven, Gyllenhaal nails the anti-social and psychotic demeanour of Bloom perfectly. There is a nervous hysteria that permeates every part of Gyllenhaal’s performance. It makes for uncomfortable viewing at times, as there’s no telling how far this Bloom will go in order to succeed. Will he go all Travis Bickle or not? However terrible and morose the character grows and develops, the actor still manages to make Lou supremely likeable. Some audiences may even go as far as to root for this antihero.
Dan Gilroy (brother of Tony) has made one hell of a stylish debut as writer/director. Matching his star, Gilroy energetically captures his frames with confidence and directs with a keen eye on pace and mounting tension. The film is also wickedly funny, often interchanging moments of explicit violence and emotional strain, with hilarious quips and witty dialogue.
The film analyses the role of the audience as voyeur and one can’t help but wonder why we find it so hard to look away. It shines a light on what drives ratings; the audience. It’s uncomfortable knowing that it’s our viewing patterns and behaviours that shape and mould our media. Is this what we are truly asking for?
Nightcrawler is an intense experience that asks us to temporarily check our morals at the door, before promptly reminding us that we might want to pick them right back up shortly afterwards.
THE VERDICT: 4.5/5
Genre: Dark Comedy, Crime Thriller, Neo Noir
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Reno Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Written by: Dan Gilroy
Budget: $8.5 million
Running time: 117 minutes