“If it bleeds, it leads.”
Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal, “Source Code”) is desperate for a job. He scours and scrapes for anything. One night he runs into a freelance videographer (Bill Paxton, “Edge of Tomorrow”) filming a crash rescue, a footage that can be sold as headline exclusive to the highest bidding news station. This speaks to him on a primal level.
Riding a beat-up car and equipped with an amateur police scanner and cheap camcorder, Lou is in business. A quick study, fast on his feet with a keen eye for detail, he trolls the night for a crime scene worth shooting. He's able to sell his first graphic shot to a night-shift news director (Rene Russo) in need of booster for ratings. Their relationship morbidly blooms from there. Lou takes advantage of a homeless man (Riz Ahmed) to be his assistant; he's proven to be useful since he knows the ins and outs of Los Angeles streets. He thrives and soon is able to buy a fancy car and fancier equipments to run his business more professionally.
Lines are crossed, as Lou realizes that power and dollars come with getting the right shots at all costs. It's not just creeping or crawling into any crash, fire, murder, stabbing or carjacking. There's such thing as the “right” neighborhood, the “right” victim or the “right” circumstance. So what's the harm in manipulating frames at crime scenes when the police aren't looking? It gets the message across, scores and praises. But at what point a line is crossed to the point of no return? Setting up and staging scenes and gambling with people's lives?
Gaunt, bug-eyed and detached with a penchant for long, preaching monologue, Gyllenhaal plays the part like a pro, showing Lou's narcissistic hunger and smarm, opportunistic instinct with no qualm for morals, driven to be somebody who holds all the bargaining chips.
Natural light and neon-lit scenes are perfectly photographed in “Nightcrawler.” The nighttime shots remind me of the visually aesthetic “Drive." It's a notable debut from a first-time director, Dan Gilroy.
Notwithstanding the unsatisfying ending, “Nightcrawler” is a great macabre satire about how news are made, packaged and pushed to the limit behind the scene, sensationalized and consumed by the public, and those who profit from tragedies and atrocities. A dark comedy and thriller rolled into one.
“Nightcrawler” may not be the typical ghoulish movie for a Halloween weekend. And while it's easy to say that Lou is one of the lowest kinds, there's something to be said about the public's appetite for ghastly sensationalism. As long as people are watching and ratings are soaring, the media would continue to publish. And that, is where the horror lies.