Nightcrawler Review: A Self-Made Monster

out of 5

These sure are strange times that we live in. News is broadcast not only in 24/7 cycles online and on cable, but networks have gone so far as to embrace social media to not only gather news, but report it. With such a demand for stories that will force people to tune in, an entire subculture of pseudo-journalists has been born. TMZ is the prime example, as now major news networks share the stories that TMZ’s paparazzi dig up on a nightly basis, and The National Enquirer, long considered tabloid, is now used as a source for critical feature stories. Strange times indeed.

In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal stars a Lou Bloom, a man who is always thinking two steps ahead, and is quite literally doing anything he can to not only survive, but thrive in Los Angeles. Jobless, but with grand ideas, Lou steals and robs to make ends meet, always looking for that opportunity to come up where he can actually be somebody. When Lou stumbles across a fiery car-crash one night on the highway, he witnesses police offers saving the life of the crash victim–but he also meets Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), a “stringer” or “Nightcrawler” that drives around the city at night, chasing police band calls for juicy opportunities to record video to sell to the myriad morning news shows in L.A. Lou quickly sees the opportunity himself and begins to build his own career as a nightcrawler, by any means necessary.

Nightcrawler review

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) has a dark side in ‘Nightcrawler.’

Lou’s rise from lowly, desperate criminal with aspirations, to a respected–using the term very loosely–photo journalist has more in common with, say, Tony Montana from Brian DePalma’s 1983 film Scarface. Both men start with nothing, and rise to great power. Both get there by nefarious means; both men excel in the product of their times. For Tony, it’s drugs and for Lou, it’s shocking, sometimes gory news video. For Tony, it ends badly. But for Lou, well, the jury is still out.

Jake Gyllenhaal brings his usual talents to the role of Lou, presenting a man that is to be feared in how fast he thinks, how far he wants to go, and how he plans to get there. Lou is downright terrifying when he’s alone, as the darkness overwhelms him and the audience gets to witness that Lou is more than he shows to the public. When he’s partnered on-screen with Rick (Riz Ahmed), his navigator and co-photographer, or even Nina (Rene Russo), the aging news director at a TV station who desperately needs the footage that Lou provides, Gyllenhaal proves even more frightening is how he commands these people to bend to his whims.

Nightcrawler review

Rene Russo co-stars as Nina, another person who is manipulated by Lou Bloom.

Nightcrawler was written and directed by Dan Gilroy, who uses the backdrop of Los Angeles to serve as a canvas for the everyday monsters he creates on-screen. Unfortunately, while Lou is very well-developed (and acted), the other characters are left bare boned, with not much more to go on than what we see on the screen. This proves to be an issue as the film goes on, as these side characters devolve into pawns for Lou to manipulate. Maybe that was the point, but I would have loved to see more of Russo’s Nina, as her character is the epitome of how news is gathered and delivered.


Lou and Rick (Riz Ahmed) arrive on the scene of a crime to shoot footage.

While not a perfect film, Nightcrawler shines the light on the dark side of how news is presented to us, especially in the 24-hour news cycle. We watch at Lou begins to go to some pretty terrible depths to get his story, and his footage, and anyone that stands in his way be damned. Lou Bloom is a self-motivated go-getter and he’s ready to start work right now. Just watch your back, or you may become the story.

Nightcrawler is rated R and is in theaters now.

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