‘Nightcrawler,’ Jake Gyllenhaal’s latest starring vehicle, is one of those rare movie experiences that leaves a lasting impression in your mind and a bad taste in your mouth even as it provides valuable social commentary on our perverse media obsession for sensational ‘news’ that feed off other peoples’ pain and loss. I almost didn’t see ‘Nightcrawler’ because its trailer and subject matter didn’t interest me (or so I thought), but I’m sure glad that I did.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Louis ‘Lou’ Bloom, a down-on-his-luck small time thief with much greater aspirations who found his true calling when he stumbled into the life of the on-scene news videographer. The ‘news’ he pursues are ‘live’ breaking news of grisly murders, accidents and other late night (or early morning) tragedies that make the morning news, often with warnings that what you’re about to see “contains scenes of a graphic nature, viewers’ discretion is advised.” These news hounds monitor police and first responder frequencies and then race each other (and the responders themselves) to the scene in order to ‘get the scoop’ like vultures flocking to a carcass. Really, I think my regard for star-stalking paparrazi just went up a notch compared to this bunch.
Still, ‘Nightcrawler’ would not have succeeded without the bravura performance delivered by Gyllenhaal, who proved once again what a fine actor he is. His borderline psychotic portrayal of the amoral Bloom is at once intense, charismatic and downright creepy. Bloom is a sleazy scumbag (and SOB) who would stoop to any level to get what he wants, yet Gyllenhaal also imparted to the character a laser-like focus and determination that can’t be denied. If nothing else, ‘Nightcrawler’ will make us feel more guilty or self-conscious the next time we tune in to these types of ‘news’ on TV or rubberneck at a horrific accident scene. Then again, maybe not.