OP-ROB RATING: STARTER
“Nightcrawler” is the story of Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), an unemployed man who drives around Los Angeles stealing manhole covers, fencing, and anything else he can get his hands on. While driving home one night he pulls over beside a car crash and witnesses a group of stringers film the aftermath of the accident. The whole scene intrigues him and he soon pawns a stolen bike for a video camera and a radio scanner. Soon enough Bloom follows his radio to the scene of a carjacking where he nudges past the police right up to the EMTs and gets several seconds footage of a man with blood oozing from the bullet holes in his neck. A local network newscast pays Bloom for the footage, and he is able to set up a working relationship with the morning news director at that station, Nina Romina (Rene Russo). Bloom hires an “intern” and quickly builds a reputation as a wily freelance film producer because of his willingness to butt right into the scene of a crime.
“Nightcrawler” really has no rhyme or reason behind it. What is does have is Jake Gyllenhaal in perhaps the most eccentric role of his life. Take a healthy looking Jake Gyllenhaal (say when he was in “Source Code”), lock him in a prison cell for six months and feed him solely gruel and get him addicted to cocaine. Unlock him, make him shave and slick his now very long hair back. Then you have Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom. “Nightcrawler” without Gyllenhaal wouldn’t survive because the audience is never forced to invest anything in the film. There are no admirable characters and no complex ideas being explored. The appeal of “Nightcrawler” is in watching Jake Gyllenhaal go completely crazy with a weirder than weird character.
Lou Bloom is a sociopath. He cares not for the privacy of others, and will get his footage by any means possible. As mentioned before, Bloom elbows past the authorities to get close to the carjacking, which is pretty tame. However as Bloom becomes more enthralled in his work he goes so far as to alter the scene of a crime if given a chance. In one instance, he pulls a mangled body from one side of a car to the other for cinematic purposes. In another instance he arrives to a crime scene before the police, and enters a home where several people have been shot and killed. Bloom slinks through the house with his camera as if filming a horror movie, slowly panning over the freshly splattered bodies. In perhaps the strangest sequence in the movie, Bloom blackmails the female network director to have sex with him in return for the best video footage, which he could easily take to another network. We never actually see the two in the act, but the implications are far creepier than any visual could possibly be.
The most interesting phenomenon the film explores is the practice of withholding evidence for personal gain. In the key sequence of “Nightcrawler”, when Bloom arrives at the house where a shooting has occurred, he is able to catch the perpetrators on camera, as they pull out of the house in their black suburban. Bloom sells the in-house footage, but keeps the criminals out on the street so that he can report them on his own time, and be there to film the arrest.
While “Nightcrawler” had a flat ending and not much plot, it certainly was a thrill to watch. Next time I watch network news and see a close up of a dead body or a gruesome crime scene, I will certainly think of Lou Bloom behind the camera.