Nightcrawler is an utterly disturbing film. You’re missing nothing unless you want to watch a dipshit win.
I’ve long been a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal, particularly given his courage to play edgy characters. He was memorable in Brokeback Mountain (2005) and never received proper recognition for Source Code (2011).
However, significant performances can produce below average films, and such is the case with director Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. You are not likely to see a more troubling film in 2014.
Here, Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, a thief who may qualify as the world’s most appalling sycophant. He patronizes everyone that he meets with a creepy smile, and he finally discovers his ticket to financial success filming crime scenes in L.A. at night and then selling his product to television news.
In the process, Bloom quickly learns that television news is far more interested in grisly crime scenes than boring stories focusing on the function of government. Lacking any moral code, he finds ultimate reward in beating police to crime scenes. Having no problem with dragging dead accident victims to a better staging area, you quickly learn to hate him as he becomes the golden boy for those behind the television camera who seek little more than to garner the best ratings.
Bloom’s eagerness to cross the line between an observer and a participant extends to an even more hideous level when he is willing to literally destroy competitors as well as his own assistant. Riz Ahmed is perfect in a small role as Bloom’s confused intern and the same can be said for Bill Paxton as another nightcrawler. Both learn the hard way that it was far better to challenge Mother Nature than Bloom.
Though Nightcrawler has garnered some critical praise it is difficult to find any satisfaction watching a movie where a slick, sick, annoying human being succeeds. In that regard, the real value of the film comes from its searing criticism of TV News.
Rene Russo plays a news director who quickly learns Bloom’s value, and it becomes crystal clear that local TV News is little more than a blood sport. For example, watch your local news every evening and see if they don’t live by the slogan, “if it bleeds it leads.” One of the most memorable moments of the film occurs when Ms. Russo dismisses a critical male subordinate, telling him in effect to concentrate on what he does best, namely “making sure the weather girl turns sideways during her presentation.”
Of course, we all know here in Indianapolis why guys like Stan Wood no longer do the weather during nightly news. It is always done by young women dressed as provocatively as possible, and Nightcrawler hits this sexual nail squarely on the head.
Although it didn’t touch on it, there is another aspect of TV News that can’t be avoided. Namely, look at the way female reporters appear on television, principally at Fox News and ESPN. On Fox, they never sit behind a desk, but around some small table where their legs are crossed, dresses hitting mid thigh while wearing 4″ heels. Then take a look at the female announcers on ESPN, and see if they are not dressed exactly the same as the camera strategically focuses on them at a distance to prepare the viewer for their close up.
Sex and violence sells as the centerpiece of TV News, pure and simple. You don’t need to see Nightcrawler to understand that simple fact.