PLOT: A driven individual (Gyllenhaal) begins to freelance as a news cameraman.
WHO'S IT FOR? Those who support news that treats human beings like characters to a horror story.
In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal plays what Jay-Z would call “not a business man, I’m a business, man.” His character Lou is a red-blooded go-getter, a motivated individual that would rather work than sleep or eat. When it comes to his passion, he doesn’t just study his craft, but learn how to apply it to a business sense. He steers himself with an open-heart credence that he has witnessed sending others to the top. In a world where 99% of Americans are taking part in a hustle to make money, Lou takes initiative on his own, he creates a company, and he provides customers with something that they need. Nightcrawler is his success story.
Lou is a freelance cameraman for the dirty world of sensational news, his coveted spot the opening segment of the morning show, when people of Los Angeles wake up to see what nightmares have occurred while they were asleep. He is undoubtedly a sociopath, a vicious voyeur, a documenter of personal tragedies that has no problem invading the personal space of shootings or car accidents. Lou learns through the film to manipulate the news, to evade honesty or humanity in stories, in order to provide viewers and news stations what they want - sensationalism. Nightcrawler is the nightmare of the following question: What if the media doesn’t have the moral standards that the viewers claim to have?
This thrilling character piece is driven with extreme motivation by Gyllenhaal, who creates a very definitive image of Lou that earns a background from the rich context that is the grimness at the center of this film. Gyllenhaal introduces Lou as a bulging-eyes observer of questionable harmlessness, who soaks in the world that around him without ever becoming interested in connecting to it. His intensity most of all comes from a drive that is rewarded when light bulbs go off in his head, as articulated by light smirks from Gyllenhaal. Even when Lou understands the concept of using a camera to get juicy raw footage to get $$$, he has an innocent naiveté, one more based on an amateur's carelessness. When he shows up for his first filming opportunity, he nearly runs over the victim he was intending to film, a moment that is both comical and indicative of his lack of respect for his fellow human being’s personal space.
Lou finds his purpose when he listens to another driven individual’s business ideology, that of KWLA 6 news producer Nina Romina (Rene Russo). In a towering monologue that will undoubtedly connect dots for Russo with Faye Dunaway’s Diana Christensen in Network, Nina inspires Lou by telling him what makes her business successful - urban crime in suburban areas, morning coffee fear derived strictly from classism and racism that makes viewers return for the 10pm news. The two create a disturbing business partnership, where Lou creeps into crime scenes to get illegal access, and then she directs news segments from his footage that are titled more like B-grade horror movies than newspaper headlines.
With both the cameraman and the director pushing the unwritten boundaries on news ethics on live broadcasts, enabled by our sadistic viewership, Nightcrawler is a deliciously sinister tale of perversion, and the manipulation within sensation. Writer/director Dan Gilroy has harnessed the question of selfish moral limits to create a genre film of pure immediacy, one with numerous thrilling sequences that show the the news getting darker and darker, until in its haunting third act, it is entirely orchestrated.
Nightcrawler is a horror story that has a predecessor in Michael Powell’s controversial 1960 film Peeping Tom, which told of a filmmaker who murders people and films their terrified faces. Roger Ebert said that Powell’s film is essentially a reflection of the experience we have when we go to movies, sitting in the dark to watch characters do sinful things. Gilroy’s film has even more involvement for its audience; there is not so much implication of voyeurism with the character Lou, but an accusation of enabling. The scathing horror of Nightcrawler is in a cameraman's extremes, whose success he has us to thank.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10