Writer/director Dan Gilroy impresses with his new psychological thriller, Nightcrawler. This film follows ruthless hustler/con-man/thief Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he tries to make a name for himself in the heart of Los Angeles. Bloom spends the majority of his time as a recluse, secluded in his apartment, ironing the same shirt he wears every day and thinking of the next way he can “come up” in the world. The only problem is that his come ups generally involve stepping on the heads of others.
The first scene introduces us to the character (or lack thereof) Bloom possesses: he is a man who will hustle for money at any cost. He begins with petty thievery, stealing copper and manhole covers that he sells to construction sites and then, by chance, he finds his “calling.” Driving down the freeway late at night, Bloom comes across a fiery car crash and is compelled to stop. It is here that he meets freelance photojournalist Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) and becomes acquainted with the dangerous and parasitic world of “nightcrawling,” scaling the city in search of home invasions, crashes, murders and other destruction, all for that “perfect shot” to sell to local television news stations (think of it as a sort of sick version of paparazzi).
And so starts Bloom’s dive into the realm of crime journalism. He hustles a cheap camcorder and police scanner from a Venice Beach pawnshop and thus begins his new career. However, Bloom cannot do this job alone and so he takes in a down-on-his-luck kid named Rick (Riz Ahmed) and pays him $30 a night to listen to the scanner and direct him to the scene of the crimes with the GPS on his cellphone. Bloom films his first crime scene and sells his footage to local news station run by cutthroat veteran anchor Nina Romina (Rene Russo). Nina hands Bloom a check for $250, advises him to obtain a better camera and has him promise to always come to her first with his latest and most brutal footage (because it’s graphic crime that keeps the city on its toes and keeps the station’s ratings high).
With time, Bloom’s nightcrawlilng career begins to blossom (see what I did there?). He buys a better camera, a better car, a better scanner, is always the first at the scene and holds no kind of moral consciousness, willing to film a dying man while staring stoically into his eyes. It is this type of bloodthirsty footage that Romina yearns for so that her station stays on top and her job stays in place. Bloom and Romina begin to form a sort of sick symbiotic relationship, each playing into the carnal desires of the other.
The film shifts as we see Bloom’s sociopathic behavior develop and witness his slow progression into insanity. He begins to become obsessed with the bloodshed, the pain, and the anguish of others. For Bloom, life and all of reality become a game, and the people in it become puppets, mere pawns for him to maneuver and manipulate. He lacks compassion, respect, human decency and has no moral compass that distinguishes the right from the wrong. The need for and the addiction to the perfect shot, the perfect angle, becomes so great that Bloom will do anything to get his “fix” and fulfill his abominable desires.
Gyllenhaal completely masters the insanity, desperation and the sociopathic mien of his character, taking you along for the ride of a man with nothing to lose and everything to gain. This film will have you on the edge of your seat, gripping your chest and covering your eyes as you anticipate each new scene.
Nightcrawler has us ponder what the word “enough” really means and shows us what the human mind and body is capable of doing in order to satisfy a vulgar obsession. With extremely graphic imagery and foul language, this is a film that is not safe for children (or the weak of heart). However, this film is a must-see, nail-biting thriller. Run to your car, head to the nearest theater, and sit back to watch the madness that is Louis Bloom unfold. I trust that you will not be disappointed.