I confess to not being a Jake Gyllenhall fan; he’s probably my second least favorite actor after Ben Affleck. But I have to admit he does an acceptable job on this film; an expose of nightly news and the freelance videographers (“Nightcrawlers”) who capture footage of accidents and shootings and sell it to the highest bidding news station. “If it bleeds, it leads,” is how fellow Nightcrawler Joe Loder (Bill Paxton in a cameo role) sums up the local news manifesto.
Gyllenhall plays Louis Bloom, one of the best-realized sociopaths put on film. Louis has no empathy for anyone, including the victims whose faces he sticks his camera into, or his lone employee (and verbal punching bag), a young man named Richard. Louis is a thief, a liar, and man whose interest in life stops at his own wants and desires. He develops a symbiotic relationship with TV news Director Nina Romina, played by a much missed Rene Russo. Louis brings Nina the worst and bloodiest of Los Angeles filth, night after night. He gets the dirty money shots no one else brings in, and she insists on showing them, despite some of her co-worker’s protests. Management looks at the ratings and has no objection.
During the TV ratings “sweeps” period, pressure is on Nina and Louis to bring in something special, a career-making bloody lede. It comes in the form of a home invasion and family murder, where Louis beats the cops to the scene and gets some truly disgusting images. His demands to Nina for the footage show his true colors; he even demands a physical relationship with her, which he justifies as being in line with how the station relates to their viewers. Even I almost bought it!
Gyllenhall transforms himself physically for the role, losing what looks like a dangerous amount of weight. Add to that loose clothes and a creepy smile on his face at all times and he really comes off as an unhinged lunatic with a camera, unleashed on a cold and uncaring city. Nightcrawler is a satire of the entire local news industry, and contains more than a shred of truth. It is definitely worth watching.
Rating: **** out of 5 stars