Don’t be fooled by its poster or its trailer; Nightcrawler, as its ghoulish title suggests, is definitely a straight up horror movie. Like all the best films in the genre, it has a terrible monster at its heart; one who is instantly recognisable, terrifyingly understandable and has the hollowed out face of a slimmed down and spooky Jake Gyllenhaal.
However, unlike most movie monsters, Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom doesn’t go around murdering people, slashing them up himself or hunting and stalking them through their houses. Instead, the entrepreneurial Bloom starts driving around at night, listening to a police scanner and waiting for a crime to be committed or for a car to be in a fatal collision. Like an anti-Batman, he prowls the shadows of the night, waiting for the villains to strike. Instead of saving the day like a superhero, Bloom rushes in on the worst night of your life, stabbing a camera in your face and makes sure you end up all bloodied on the morning news.
It’s nothing personal. Bloom is just an enterprising guy who wants to make a buck and isn’t afraid to work for it. When we first meet him, he is selling stolen copper and scrap metal, haggling over prices and hustling for a decent job. After seeing what these film crews can do at the scene of an auto accident, Bloom gets himself a camera and scanner, soon hires himself a navigator and assistant and hurtles around the city in the search for blood.
Of course, Lou wouldn’t have a business if there wasn’t someone to pay him for his real-life video-nasties. Rene Russo is the vulture waiting to taste the bloody meat he brings in, depending on shocking images to grab ratings and keep her job. Lou knows exactly what it is the networks want and exactly how to get it. He is an infinitely determined individual; the perfect product of our individualistic, selfish, success driven sick society. Bloom provides a service that is in demand. No matter the ethics of filming the dead or dying; Bloom has the tools to capture what the people want. And Russo’s TV exec knows that fear sells.
This might be the directorial debut of screenwriter Dan Gilroy but it is a film completely focused on Gyllenhaal’s character. It's a fantastic script but nothing can distract from Gylenhaal's sinister performance at the heart of the movie. Gifted with a wonderful character, Bloom is an oily creep, morally reprehensible but magnetic all the same. He is hard working, driven and knowledgeable; and every bit as ruthless as society requires him to be in order to get ahead in this world. Constantly crossing boundaries, both physical (police lines do not cross!) and metaphorical, Bloom is an opportunist and chameleon.
Nightcrawler offers both thriller and biting social satire. When Bloom is shooting crime scenes, there is an element of the stalk and slash film. Bloom lurks through houses like a predator, ready to shoot his prey with his camera. Later, as he really starts to cross ethical lines, it becomes an action film as Bloom and his assistant follow car chases and shootouts. All the while, Bloom’s relentless attempts to expand his business and exploit anyone in his path become the real horror of the story. Driven to extreme measures by a simple demand and supply mentality, Bloom is a monster waiting to happen.
Gyllenhaal turns in the performance of a lifetime. While the city of Los Angeles sleeps, he plays the man willing to get his hands dirty for the good of our fear mongering media. Lou Bloom will probably be heralded a hero by many; a man whose confidence and business sense make him a success; no matter what the cost. Make no mistake; Nightcrawler is a monster movie; but he’s a monster we made, we implicitly endorse and arguably we need.
Here is the trailer: