Movie review: ‘Nightcrawler’
Directed By Dan Gilroyd
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed
Rated R, Thriller, 117 minutes
In “Nightcrawler,” writer-director Dan Gilroy postulates that public curiosity supports a flourishing paparazzi. Beyond the realm of celebrity stalkers, Gilroy explores the independent videographers prowling the mean streets of Los Angeles in search of the gruesome footage leading many local newscasts.
Viewers become acquainted with this milieu through the eyes of Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), an unemployed petty thief who stumbles upon an accident scene and realizes that big bucks go to the videographer best able to record the carnage. He knows he possesses the ambition and amorality necessary to succeed.
A professed quick study, Bloom purchases a bottom-rung police scanner and low-end camera that he proceeds to shove into the faces of the suffering, dying and dead.
Bloom’s footage is just the tonic for desperate news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo), who is responsible for the station’s TV newscast, currently last in the ratings. Nina quickly learns that Bloom will outplay and, when necessary, climb over anyone to get what he wants. Their relationship clarifies Bloom’s sociopathic tendencies. For her part, Russo, whose character becomes Bloom’s main sparring partner, portrays Nina as an unsympathetic character, selling her soul for ratings.
As Bloom’s number one competitor, Bill Paxton portrays Joe Leder, a more experienced and established independent stringer who believes in holding his rivals close. Long accustomed to dominating the night beat with his well-equipped vans and low ethics, even Leder is unprepared for Bloom’s audacious efforts to beat him to every big score and procure the most saleable footage.
Realizing he requires a helper and navigator, Bloom hires Rick (Riz Ahmed), an unemployed young man willing to do almost anything to earn a few bucks. Bloom humorously spouts corporate mantras to his naive employee, developing another relationship that reveals Bloom’s unrepentant narcissism.
As his footage, equipment and paychecks improve, Bloom conspires to receive a maximum payday by manipulating situations to ensure the bloody outcomes from which he profits. With his large eyes and gaunt face, Gyllenhaal sculpts Bloom into an increasingly self-satisfied character, unmoved by the tragedy left in his wake.
Gilroy’s drama postulates the public’s morbid curiosity, coupled with the media’s willingness to satisfy it, is taking us to ever darker, bleaker places while giving rise to a platoon of Louis Blooms. Gilroy refrains from preaching and manages to entertain us while delivering that message.
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“This is not an exhibit for art lovers, it’s not an exhibit for environmental people,” said producer and curator Heather Llewellyn. “It’s for the general pubic.”