Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. Rated 14A.
As long as you don’t go into Nightcrawler expecting anything deep, you can have a lot of fun with it. The film’s a satire on the gory state of local TV news, but it’s not necessarily saying you need to be a sociopath like Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom to thrive in this racket. It’s just more amusing for us if you are.
Nightcrawler is a character study, and a strangely intimate one given how much time we spend in Bloom’s apartment just watching him watch TV. Bloom’s introduced as a petty thief who’s good at talking his way out of trouble by explaining himself and his goals. When that fails, it’s cleverly implied he’s violent. Soon, he stumbles onto a car accident and sees a guy (Bill Paxton) capturing footage for the L.A. news. He decides to get his own police scanner and camcorder, and we’re off and running.
How Bloom becomes a successful videographer is all the more enjoyable because of how bad he is at first. Here’s a guy with no shame, so he’s perfectly content to keep learning the hard way. He hires an intern (Riz Ahmed) and gets cozy with a desperate news director (Rene Russo, wife of first-time director Dan Gilroy and sorely missed talent), and half the fun of the film is watching their gobsmacked reactions to his motivational-speak manipulations.
The other half is Gyllenhaal. He based his gaunt look on a coyote, and even though his character isn’t believable for a second, he’s compelling as hell. Gilroy’s found great partners for his dark joy ride. By the time the film’s masterfully crafted three-way car chase gets going, you’re in it until the last screech of the twisty, gleaming wreckage.