Nightcrawler movie review: how news gets broken

Nightcrawler green light

Noirish 1950s cynicism meets nasty 1970s Corman-esque exploitation in a thriller that is uncomfortable, unpleasant, unforgiving, and pretty darn brilliant.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Jake Gyllenhaal

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s like noirish 1950s cynicism meets nasty 1970s Corman-esque exploitation: Nightcrawler, the directorial debut from screenwriter Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy), is uncomfortable, unpleasant, unforgiving, and pretty darn brilliant. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom is a gaunt specter haunting scenes of real-life horror — car accidents; home invasions — in Los Angeles, ready with his camera to shoot whatever gory footage he can capture to sell to the highest bidder among the local news stations; if it bleeds, it leads, and that means ratings bonanza, so the gorier and more fear-mongering the better.

For Louis, previously a semiprofessional vandal selling stolen copper wiring and manhole covers to scrap-metal merchants, the transition from thief to “nightcrawler” is hardly a transition at all for a job that, it would seem, requires no training, no knowledge, no experience, and — most vitally — no ethics. Gyllenhaal’s (Enemy) profoundly creepy performance, his most accomplished yet by far, imagines Louis as a weirdly stilted approximation of a man, as if he weren’t human but is merely aping human behavior he has studied, mostly, it would seem, from business and entrepreneurial self-help seminars… and if you never thought that stuff bordered on sinister sociopathy before, Louis is here to convince you of it. (Who Moved My Corpse? anyone?)

But lest we be misled into believing that a serial-killer vibe is a requirement of the job, Bill Paxton’s (Edge of Tomorrow) somewhat more human nightcrawler (he tries to bring Louis onto his team) and Rene Russo’s (Thor: The Dark World) TV station news director (she ends up being his primary client) will disabuse us of that notion. The scariest thing about this tale of modern mainstream journalism as a horror story, as a cultural nightmare, is that even the supposedly “normal” are complicit in it… including us, for responding to it. That’s the collective we, of course. I don’t watch it, and maybe you don’t, but a helluva lot of someones certainly do.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Nightcrawler for its representation of girls and women.

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
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