Think of our newscast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.
– TV station News director Nina (Rene Russo) to Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Nightcrawler
Don’t you dare count me among the surprised when Jake Gyllenhaal has his hands full with trophies during the coming awards season for a superb performance in Nightcrawler.
I’ve seen a whole bunch of Gyllenhaal films including the Oscar winning Brokeback Mountain (where our man played a gay cowboy and for which he got the Best Supporting Actor nomination) but I think Nightcrawler is his best performance in a lead role.
A remarkable portrayal of a chilling character!
Made on a modest budget of $8 million, Nightcrawler is anything but a crawler.
Call it a dark, night-thriller and you’d be right on the money!
The film is a fast-paced, crisply written account of ‘nightcrawler’ Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) racing wildly, dangerously on the nocturnal streets of Los Angeles to capture graphic video footage of murders, home invasions, fires, car-jackings, horrific accidents and other bloody scenes to be sold to local TV stations.
And if the victim is a White middle-class or upper class person living in the suburbs, all the better from the TV station point of view (White Americans live in mortal dread of crime creeping into and sullying their cosy, pristine suburban White neighborhoods).
Oddly enough for a society where crime rate is not that high, the American public has a morbid fixation with blood and violence and an insatiable appetite for crime news.
Not surprisingly, local TV stations, newspapers and tabloids in many parts of the U.S. pander to this grotesque fixation by highlighting crime stories day in and day out.
If it bleeds, it leads is a trite, decades-old policy entrenched in newsrooms of American tabloids and local TV news channels.
And feeding the tabloids and TV stations are the ‘nightcrawlers’ listening in on police scanners and racing toward crime/accident scenes, sometimes arriving there even before the police and ambulance crew.
No Stopping Him
At the beginning of the movie, Louis Bloom is not a nightcrawler but stumbles into the ‘profession’ after witnessing a fiery car crash one night on the highway.
Once Bloom gets himself a camcorder and a police scanner, there’s no stopping the new, hyper-ambitious entrepreneur.
He quickly establishes a ‘professional’ relationship with Nina, News Director of a bottom-rated, bottom-feeding local TV channel. At 60, Rene Russo still has a charm that quickly captivates Bloom and yours truly. 😉
Even among the nightcrawlers, Bloom stands out for his unusual, amoral style, which is what ultimately makes the character and Gyllenhaal’s performance riveting to watch.
Making his debut as director, screenwriter Dan Gilroy (real-life husband of Rene Russo and writer of this film) gets most things right in Nightcrawler (except for the part where Nina pushes back against the investigating detectives in the TV station’s office…in the real American world, the balance of power is completely tilted in favor of the police).
Gilroy’s writing is topnotch.
Louis’ adoption of corporate speak is often hilarious given his situation as potential employee or employer. Gilroy seems to be mocking the American corporate world with all its cockamamie nonsense of un-paid interns, performance reviews, cold-blooded hire and fire, the gloating self-importance, the endless hyperbole etc.
British actor Riz Ahmed is impressive as Bloom’s assistant Rick. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Ahmed in Hollywood.
Overall, I found Nightcrawler to be an extremely engaging, very well-made film.
I have no hesitation in strongly recommending Nightcrawler to my U.S. readers (has this film debuted in Mera Bharat Mahaan?).