Character Study Criticizes Journalistic Ethics in ‘Nightcrawler’

Photo courtesy of Siebbi, Wikimedia

First time director Dan Gilroy presented a dark, psychological thriller “Nightcrawler,” starring Jake Gyllenhal. Unveiling the seedy world of today’s unfortunate journalistic standards, “Nightcrawler” showcases Lou Bloom (Gyllenhall) as he follows a police scanner from car crashes to home invasions. Camcorder in hand, Bloom scours the streets of Los Angeles, eager to come across the most disturbing, provocative crime scenes of the night. Bill Paxton’s short-lived, but unintentionally comedic supporting role as fellow striker Joe Loder, imparts wisdom on Bloom in more ways than one. “If it bleeds it leads,” is Loder’s mantra as he arrogantly and unknowingly walks Bloom through his first taste of night crawling.

Within seconds of meeting Bloom, his eyes tell the story of a pathological introvert with delusional self-regard. Clipping a fence with a bolt cutter, we wonder what it is that he wants on the other side. It turns out, Bloom is only there for the fence. A scavenger thief by night, Bloom looks to cash in on everything from copper wire to manhole covers. After a night of stealing and selling, he happens upon a gruesome car accident and is compelled to take a closer look. Here he is introduced to Loder and the potential career of nightcrawling.

As if it was something he was born to do, Bloom takes to his new entrepreneurial endeavor with the drive of a Fortune 500 CEO. Starting out in a broke down Nissan, selling his videos for a measly $250 to news station lead producer Nina (Renee Russo), Bloom quickly works his way up to a prized, freelance member of the blood sport that is local television news. Through a short but informative montage, we see Bloom go from poor to wealthy in regards to his business assets. Getting a new car, new camera, new computer and a co-pilot in assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed).

Bloom reinvents the role of nightcrawler as he continuously walks the line of spectator and participant in the stories he is chasing. Repositioning victims for the perfect shot, entering crime scenes before police arrive and manufacturing his own drama. Bloom shows zero compassion for the victims or bystanders as they are all just part of his sale.

Gylenhall delivers a sensational performance as the villain. His unique, creepy charm coupled with quick-witted and insightful dialogue creates an allure that leaves viewers very unsure of his true intentions. Gylenhall continuously goes against the grain of the prototypical Hollywood actor. Instead of taking the roles that are stereotypically perfect for his appearance, he chooses films that are not necessarily guaranteed box office success, like “Jarhead” and “End of Watch.”

It is quite hard to believe that the scenes Bloom are filming would ever make their way on to a residential television set. It is even harder to believe that the news stations receiving this type of footage would not instantly call the police. Gylenahall is worth the cost of admission, but the message is the star. Gilroy’s attempt at shining light on the news industrie's current dip in ethics is read loud and clear.