‘If it bleeds, it leads’ is the heartless crime journalism motto in noir thriller, ‘Nightcrawler’ written and directed by first-timer Dan Gilroy. The film is centred wholly around entrepreneurial nutcase Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) who roams the neon lit streets of Los Angeles in search of a money-making scheme. When he witnesses a terrible highway accident and a man capturing the events on camera, he sees an opportunity to capitalise on, deciding to have a go himself, selling his grisly footage to the highest bidding news station. This dark slice of cinema is fascinating throughout, exploring the moral philosophies of freelance reporting through the eyes of and focussed through the lens of a driven, but extremely intelligent lunatic, who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
The narrative ticks along at an alarming pace as Bloom quickly builds his reputation, hiring Rick as his hard-working assistant and forming a working relationship with Nina, a news channel director. Lou continuously pushes his assets to the absolute limits, always wanting more sales, more success and consequently more money. The gloomy style of the cinematography along with an unsettling score combine to create a creepy cloud that descends on LA after dark and is the suitable environment for the complex protagonist to go about his business. By day, he is calculating and clever, delivering motivational nuggets to justify his motives. When pestering a potential employer, he argues that ‘if you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket’. By night, he is equally direct and eloquent in his methods of madness but possesses a cruel, dangerous streak.
Jake Gyllenhaal, who also produced the project, describes his latest character as a human interpretation of a coyote, lurking in the shadows of the metropolis. He lost twenty pounds in weight for the role and his gaunt look and inhumane glare give Lou Bloom a chilling exterior to match the mercilessness behind the glazy eyes. Aspects of other cinematic anti-heroes can be pulled from the intricacies of Lou Bloom; he has the social awkwardness of Travis Bickle and the driving prowess of Gosling’s unnamed stunt driver, as well as the psychotic tendencies of Patrick Bateman. These combined attributes though make Bloom memorable in his own right, and Gyllenhaal is scarily good in his portrayal. Excellent support comes from British star Riz Ahmed as Bloom’s loyal aide who goes against his ethical scruples in his desperation for steady employment.
‘Nightcrawler’ continues an interesting trend of major acting talent turning to darker, indie material in order to get more in-depth satisfying roles, though Gyllenhaal now finds himself on the wrong side of the moral compass, following his previous authoritative parts. Following Bloom from one crime scene to the next, we as an audience become almost complicit in his wicked ways, laughing at his words of warped wisdom and absorbed in his murky profession. While discussing his line of work with a police officer, he gleefully states ‘I like to think that if you see me, you’re having the worst day of your life’. I would never want to come across his kind face to face but on-screen, his company is well worth your time.