Relying, to a fault, on the all-too familiar evolutionary misstep of informative media. The demand for immediate, uncensored news, the mind-numbing over-saturation of available outlets, and the audience’s sway over content doesn’t stink quite as potent as it once did, but remains like an annoyingly relevant stinging sensation nonetheless. The morally questionable, underhanded maneuvering it takes to obtain freshly rotted news, if you’d call it that nowadays, provides enough of a sinister, down-right dirty thrill to give Nightcrawler some substance to match its main attraction, leading man Jake Gyllenhaal’s enormously entertaining and charismatic turn as a highly ambitious, adrenaline fueled ambulance chaser.
On the surface, Louis ‘Lou’ Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) isn’t exactly ‘Ivy League’ material. Lanky, greasy, and unkempt, Lou’s appearance resembles that of the morning after a night of heavy substance abuse. However, underneath his off-putting exterior, Lou has all the makings of a Forbes billionaire. Self-diagnosed as a hard worker who sets high goals and is remarkably persistent. Lou’s determination to find a career that utilizes his skill set and meets his financial aspirations, as well as quench his thirst for meaningful employment promptly pays off. To succeed, Lou ditches all morality and regard for human life…in his mind, a small price to pay, no doubt.
Spending his days of unemployment lurking around every shady corner, waiting to pounce on any fortuitous opportunity that may present itself. Lou happens upon an accident on the freeway returning from his nightly runs to the salvage yard to sell stolen scrap metal. In his sleep-deprived stupor, Lou stumbles towards the wreckage and crosses paths with Joe (Bill Paxton), a nightcrawler hoping to capture whatever mangled mess he can on tape to sell to the highest bidder. Enamored, Lou picks up a dated, worn, hand-held video camera and tries his hand at the trade. A keen eye for carnage and despair, Lou quickly masters his newly found obsession and branches out. Funded, mentored, and encouraged by Nina (Rene Russo), a producer for a bottom-feeding, low-rated news station in LA and assisted on his nightly excavations by his only employee Rick (Riz Ahmed), Lou soon achieves utter personal contentment.
Lou, defined by addictive tendencies and sleazy, sociopath behavior transcends mere cinematic loathing. There’s this unnerving aura that suffocates the relationship between Lou and the audience, a dirty, inside joke of forethought and malice. As if Lou can pass through walls and choke the very humanity from you. First time director Dan Gilroy’s unsettling vision for the ultimate antihero, one that carries all the physical characteristics and carnal desires of a man spliced with the animalistic elements of a rabies-ridden coyote is enough to tie your stomach in knots. Yet, oddly enough, who knew that not exactly being torn by depravity or moral consciousness could be so endlessly enjoyable and engaging?
As Lou Bloom, Jake Gyllenhaal once again gives an Oscar-worthy turn. Gyllenhaal has triumphed in such a vast array of roles, it’s disgusting to think that he isn’t always regarded as one of the most dynamically diverse actors in the biz, but this sorely needs to change immediately and indefinitely, and Nightcrawler is the final proof. From cult-smash Donnie Darko, the horrifically under-appreciated Source Code, to game-changing homo-erotic drama Brokeback Mountain, Gyllenhaal has continuously tread waters most actors wouldn’t dare to dive, it’s about time we rectify this lack of recognition.
To keep the more rambunctious, incredibly and disconcertingly delightful moments of Nightcrawler under the radar, I’ll keep this brief. Scribe Dan Gilroy didn’t just create the monster that is Lou Bloom, he spawned an entire world of concrete and wilderness filled with unsavory characters and abhorrent circumstances. In this dimly-lit dystopia of perpetual shadiness and pulsating neon, one would never dream of calling this place home, but I can’t shake this feeling of unwanted familiarity.
The Good: Jake Gyllenhaal at a career-best.
The Bad: Pacing needs the occasional tinkering.
The Ugly: Needed more Bill Paxton.