You leave the movie theatre with a slightly sick feeling of guilt after watching Nightcrawler. Guilt that you actually enjoyed this rather original moviemaking set in an ethical and moral vacuum. In that sense the movie is entirely ironic. You shouldn’t be enjoying this stuff.
It’s an exposition of entirely greed-induced (financial and ego driven) naked ambition that rivals Wolf of Wall Street for it’s blithe abandon of normal ethical practice.
Gyllenhaal, as Louis Bloom, almost cadaveresque after his dramatic weight loss for the part, is as unsympathetic a movie character as you’ve seen in a very long time. His back story, which is precisely zilch, renders him a characte in search of a meaning. A loner, a drifter, a thief, unemployed (unemployable is the truth) and entirely without remorse – emotion for that matter – stumbles upon a freelance career as an, at first hapless then really rather good, ambulance chasing ‘scene of the crime’ news cameraman.
Starting with motorway crashes and graduating to suburban crime scenes (where the threat of middle America being intruded upon by ‘Hispanics’ and other Liberal American ethnic minorities) he captures more and more challenging newsreel material that feeds the sensation-lust of an LA loser News Station’s News Editor, Nina Romina, played deliciously by Rene Russo.
Romina’s sponsorship of, and belief in, the expert blagging of Bloom feeds his desire for greater success and indeed for Romina herself. In a toe curling ‘date’ at a camp Mexican restaurant Bloom lays it on the line with Romina in a scene of toe-curling embarrassment. It’s as if Gyllenhaal is playing for laughs, but he’s deadly serious.
Throughout, Gyllenhaal commands the screen. The Nightime lighting constantly picking out his skeletal, eye bulging look that makes him look like the devil incarnate. This truly is an evil character and Gyllenhaal’s trademark smirk only adds to the perverse sense of evil pleasure he is gaining as his success mushrooms.
A recurring theme in the movie is his watering of a pot plant in his flat. It’s as if it’s the only living thing he cares two bucks about. Certainly his hapless sidekick/assistant Rick, played by Riz Ahmed, has next to no chance in this little hothouse world of emotion-free ambition.
Gyllenhaal’s faux management style ‘development’ of Rick is at times darkly amusing but usually just plain vacuous and ironic given that he draws from real world self help and management lingo that’s bad enough in the corporate world, but downright bizarre in this micro universe.
The car chases are gripping edge of seat affairs, the plot, although it has holes in the final reel (quite big ones I felt) is nevertheless highly original and unfolds at a steady pace.
The conclusion was, to my mind at least, a little disappointing, but aside from this a good, dark, star vehicle for Jake and possibly a step towards another best actor nomination.