It’s a tough call on who ranks lower on the scumbag scale, celebrity paparazzi or freelance photographers who film the aftermath of crime scenes. My vote would go for the latter. Paparazzi spend their time annoying famous people, but the ghouls who take video of gory accidents have the potential to do more serious damage.
In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal plays one of those videographers, and he plays it well. Louis Bloom is a petty thief who witnesses a car accident and then realizes that he’s stumbled across his own version of the American Dream. Shallow but smart, Bloom has absorbed the Dream’s work ethic and ambition, but not its soul. When he meets a local news director (Rene Russo) who shares his disdain for professional ethics, it’s the beginning of a not-so-beautiful relationship.
Nightcrawler aspires to do to local news what Network did to national news, skewering the ratings-are-everything mentality, but mostly this is a character study of a man with no character. Although Gyllenhaal’s performance is memorable, he’s playing a one-note role. We see how Bloom gets into the ambulance-chasing racket, and we see how he thrives. But the movie doesn’t really take off until Bloom’s ambition takes him a step too far – why should he wait for great footage when he can orchestrate it himself?
Dan Gilroy wrote and directed the film. His direction is good but not great, his script is good but not great, and Nightcrawler is good, but not quite great. Grade: B+
Director: Dan Gilroy Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton, Ann Cusack, Sharon Tay, Leah Fredkin Release: 2014
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