“If it bleeds, it leads”.
That’s a common phrase for the news world, and Nightcrawler takes us behind the scenes of that world in a fascinating character study. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a weirdo who is desperate to find work when reselling stolen goods proves not as lucrative as he thought it would be. He comes across a news crew shooting a car accident on the freeway, and decides to get in on the business. After getting his own camera and a police scanner, he brings his work to a local L.A. news station, and meets the news director, Nina (Rene Russo).
Lou only gets paid after he presents his “product”, so Lou quickly learns how fast he has to be to get to a crime scene, and how aggressive he has to be to get “the shot”. Lou hires one employee, Rick (a strong Riz Ahmed), who will do anything for some money…almost. It doesn’t take long for Lou to start manipulating crime scenes for the benefit of his “shot” and it’ll make you cringe.
There’s some sequences that will have you on the edge of your seat as Lou gets his footage, and you wonder how far he will go. It leads to an incredible climax that will leave you breathless, but the most shocking thing about the film is the most enthralling part of the film is when Gyllenhaal and Russo are in a scene together.
Following up End Of Watch, Prisoners, and Enemy, Gyllenhaal continues on his dark path of creepy characters, and he’s fearless as Lou. Much has been written about the fact that Jake is the same age in this that Robert De Niro was in Taxi Driver, and the comparison is warranted. Jake boldly embraces all the weirdness and the scariness of his character. It’s an unapologetic performance that will make you feel very uneasy.
In a smaller role, Jake has his match in Rene Russo. Welcome back, Rene! After being one of the most popular leading ladies in the 1990s, Rene hasn’t had a major role since 2005. She finally gets a great role again here, and get this, Nightcrawler is written and directed by her husband. It’s ridiculous that she has to rely on that to score a showcase role. It’s the perfect case of ageism in Hollywood. Now 60 years old, Rene shows she absolutely should be a major movie star with her daring work here.
Nina is a news director who struggles to stay relevant in the business. She used to work as a reporter, but as no desire to revisit that part of her life. Nine knows how cutthroat the business is, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to survive. There’s an interesting parallel between Lou and Nina.
With her big hair, this could have easily become a caricature, but Russo brings enormous depth to Nina in little moments. She’s fascinating to watch. The dinner scene between Lou and Nina is a masterclass in acting. Oscars, take notice.
Nightcrawler is not a film for everyone with its dark subject matter, but it’s a very well done film with a unique story and great performances.