Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed
Directed By: Dan Gilroy
Written By: Dan Gilroy
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 1 hr 57 min
Nightcrawlers, in the context of this movie, are film crews who scan police frequencies so that they can respond and then record/profit from other people’s misery. Modern day vultures feeding off LA’s crime scenes, one step lower than paparazzi and ambulance chasing lawyers. But you have to wonder, would they exist if there wasn’t a demand for that flavor of grizzly content in our television news?
Nightcrawler serves as an indictment of modern news media, and a platform for one of the best leading performances I’ve seen all year. Jake Gyllenhaal is incredibly charming, yet creepy as Lou Bloom, a man seemingly incapable of feeling empathy. An amoral opportunist willing to do whatever it takes to get the shot, aided and abetted by an emotionally bankrupt network producer, nicely played here by Rene Russo.
Quality professional investigative journalism is all but extinct these days, and has been replaced with 24 hour lazy propaganda outlets, where being first is more important than being right. Where ratcheting up the rhetoric, and playing to people’s fears is paramount in an endless battle for ratings and ad revenues. Something this film demonstrates really well, especially during one great scene where Nina Romina (Rene Russo) keeps asking her news anchors to repeat key words designed to ramp up fear while they show bloody gruesome footage of a murder scene recorded by Lou Bloom.
Nightcrawler, while a little slow to start, becomes more and more intriguing as it moves along. Dan Gilroy’s first film as a director is impeccably well written and assembled, and the directions this story take are fascinating. You might watch this and judge the characters Lou Bloom and Nina Romina for their amoral behavior. But they are simply responding and profiting from a demand by their viewing public. How does the biblical expression go? “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
The main characters in this film are not nice people, and this movie acts as more of a statement on modern news media than a typical structured plot with a righteous conclusion. The movie earns its R rating due to language and violence.
While there are some nice shots in an around LA, this isn’t an especially striking visual experience. A matinée screening will suffice if you can’t wait for the rental to watch at home on your TV, laptop or tablet.
Best Moment: << spoiler! >>
A competing nightcrawler crew led by Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) get into an accident, and Lou Bloom is first on the scene to record the carnage. It must have felt particularly ironic for Joe to be on the wrong side of the camera lens.