Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom
Rene Russo as Nina
Riz Ahmed as Rick
Bill Paxton as Joe
Ann Cusack as Linda
Kathleen York as Jackie
Michael Hyatt as Detective Fronteiri
Directed by Dan Gilroy
Petty criminal Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) has been struggling to make a living until he discovers the world of “nightcrawlers,” L.A. denizens who chase after violent crimes and car accidents to get video footage they can sell to local news channels. Bloom finds himself caught up in this new lifestyle, hiring an assistant (Riz Ahmed) and making a connection with a news producer (Rene Russo), who helps him make huge progress in this endeavor, even as his tactics become more questionable.
I’m sure there’s a lot of nice things one can say about Los Angeles but no other film has managed to capture the seedier side of its news reporting quite like Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut, which acts as the perfect showcase for Jake Gyllenhaal to show another side of himself as an actor.
We meet Louis as he’s broken into a train yard to pilfer chain link fence to sell, as he desperately tries to make money after the economic collapse. When he comes upon a car accident, he sees Bill Paxton’s Joe and his team shooting footage at the crash site, and Louis is intrigued enough to buy his own video camera and police scanner. He’s a fast learner, as he tells the local news producer Nina (Rene Russo), who is impressed by Louis’ skills and shares his infectious enthusiasm.
The combination of Gyllenhaal’s ability at creating such an odd one-of-a-kind character whom you never know what he’s going to say or do with Gilroy’s skillful writing of Louis’ eloquent rants is what makes “Nightcrawler” such an intriguing and unique prospect. With hair barely long enough to tie it into a samurai-like bun, Louis has the gift of gab and a certain charm and personality that helps him talk himself out of any situation, but the more time we spend with him, the more we realize he’s crazy, probably borderline sociopathic, in terms of what he’ll do to get the perfect shot.
While Louis is able to talk to people with confidence as if he’s normal, he also becomes increasingly more obsessed, doing whatever it takes to get footage that will get him top dollar. We haven’t seen such a delightfully delusional personality conveyed so well in a movie, although De Niro’s characters in “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy” are a good starting point. Gyllenhaal’s gaunt expressive face does something interesting with the light, which enhances his sudden mood changes.
He’s driven to get what he wants, particularly from Russo, who he shows an interest in beyond just being a reliable buyer of his footage – the undeniable sexual tension between them adds another level to their scenes. We start to see the cracks starting to show when he’s alone with his underpaid assistant Rick (Riz Ahmad), taking it out on him when they don’t get to a scene before the police and firefighters. One can’t stress enough what both these actors bring to the table in terms of supporting what Gyllenhaal brings to the role.
Overall, Gilroy’s film creates a tone not unlike that of Nicolas Refn’s “Drive,” another film that beautifully captures modern-day Los Angeles in a very different way than we normally see and it uses voyeurism in a similar way as Brian de Palma?s “Body Double.” Similar to both those movies, the tension and excitement builds as Louis gets more involved with the crimes he’s filming, leading up to a sudden spate of action in a police chase through the streets of L.A. It’s the capper to a movie that rarely gets dull even for a moment.
The Bottom Line:
“Nightcrawler” is absolutely intense, a fantastic debut by Dan Gilroy with Gyllenhaal giving an unforgettable performance that shows him achieving the next level as an actor.