R / 117 min
Crime / Drama / Thriller
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Director: Dan Gilroy
There’s something slightly unsettling about Nightcrawler, director Dan Gilroy’s exploration into the world of L.A. crime journalism. Until watching this movie, I didn’t even know this sort of industry even existed. Essentially, the act of “nightcrawling” involves racing around the streets of L.A. during the twilight hours to capture b-roll footage of all the crimes that take place during the night. This footage is then shopped around to news agencies, ripe and ready to be broadcasted during the morning news cycle. It’s a ruthless business, one that requires you to stay ahead of the curve if you want to succeed. Nightcrawler is the story of Louis Bloom, a rookie to the business who takes his entrepreneurial abilities a little too far.
Jake Gyllenhaal takes the lead role of Louis Bloom, a grungy greased-up entrepreneur. He’s a hustler, persistent to the point of annoyance and willing to do anything he has to in order to put his foot ahead of the rest. His search for a job comes to an end when he drives past a car accident on his way home. He gets out of his car and before he even has the chance to take a couple of steps, a van comes to a halting stop next the accident, with two video journalists hopping out to capture the footage. Ideas start brewing in Louis’ head and before we know it, he is dipping his toes into this somewhat sleazy business.
Louis’ operation escalates pretty quickly as he starts to learn the ins and outs of the business. He purchases his own equipment, learns the police radio codes, and even hires an assistant (played by Riz Ahmed). Unlike the other video journalists, Louis takes his craft to the next level and begins to blur the lines of morality. His first video package that he prepares for a local TV station gets a little nosey as he “breaks” into a house to get the “perfect shot” of a crime scene. His primary contact at the TV station, TV veteran Nina Romina (Rene Russo), loves this up-close-and-personal footage and decides to air Louis’ work, despite some hesitation from her peers at the station.
Things only get more intense as Louis tests the waters of moral ambiguity. Gyllenhaal does a perfect job at portraying the young entrepreneur. He’s cut-throat in his doings and he’s a little bit insane. Gyllenhaal takes you down the character’s rabbit hole that he gets himself into as he tries to get “the perfect shot.” The film ramps up in intensity, especially during a murder scene at a suburban mansion. It’s the film’s peak, the moment that begins Louis’ decent. Rene Russo’s Nina also takes part in this decent, although to a lesser extent. The performances are great all around, but I would have liked to see more from Riz Ahmed’s character. His relationship with Louis was a toxic one, one that I thought could have been explored a little more than it was.
Nightcrawler shouldn’t really be looked at as an accurate representation of the business, but more as a satire. However, the film does raise questions about the moral ramifications that stem from such a sordid, yet lucrative job. Morality is one of the primary driving themes behind the story, one that is handled pretty well. Like I said in the very beginning of this review, there is something deeply unsettling about the act of nightcrawling. It’s not the most glamourous of occupations, and this film does a great job at portraying this.
Events build up as the movie rolls along but the final scene felt a little bit anticlimactic, and almost unnecessary. Things came to a close in such a jarring way that I was not expecting. The ending wasn’t really effective at all and didn’t really put the nicest cap on an otherwise very well-made film. The movie could have been extended or shortened by a scene to wrap things up better. It would have made a big difference.
There’s a dose of grittiness and darkness that covers Nightcrawler, an unnerving look into the seedy world of crime journalism. Gyllenhaal gives an outstanding performance of a man who takes things a little too far. The film documents the steady decline of his character as he does some dirty things to get ahead of his peers. It’s a fascinating film that’s full of great performances and thrills. It’s just a shame it wasn’t brought to a conclusion in better fashion.