Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the titular Nightcrawler, Louis Bloom, a desperate man who blags his way into the world of TV crime scene journalism. Armed only with a cheap camera, a second-hand police scanner and a total disregard for the welfare of others, he begins working as a freelance ambulance-chaser, selling his videos of crime scenes and accidents to a local TV news channel.
Lou has no scruples whatsoever. He’ll do anything necessary to achieve success in his newly chosen field, he attempts to be charming but simply comes off as scary. He’s intense and creepy, not to mention horribly deluded. His many motivational monologues (he hires a minion to assist in his grotesque endeavours) illustrate his delusions of grandeur which at times, are actually pretty hilarious. He sounds like an Apprentice candidate or one of The Dragons.
The plot is pretty simple, which isn’t a problem in itself, although there comes a point when you feel like you’ve seen one crime scene too many. It just starts to feel a little repetitive: visit crime scene, record footage, sell to TV station, repeat.
Lou is certainly an interesting character, and while we don’t learn much about his back story (or anything, in fact), there’s enough going on in Gyllenhaal’s performance to keep you interested. And that’s just as well because we learn precisely bugger all about any of the other characters, most of whom don’t have that much to do. This is Gyllenhaal’s show.
Nightcrawler is a decent, well made film but it’s also about 30 minutes too long, with patchy pacing, and a lack of direction. About half way through I began to wonder where they were going with it, and I’m not really convinced they knew, either. It’s lucky then that the lead is someone as consistently good as Jake Gyllenhaal, because he elevates it above where it deserves to be. Ah, maybe I’m being a bit harsh. I mean, it isn’t that Nightcrawler is a bad film, I just didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as I wanted to.
To go back to Gyllenhaal for a minute, though… wow, he’s good! Really good. Not only does he give a top-draw performance but he also dropped 30 lbs for the role, which while not absolutely necessary, adds to the haunted, hyper and unhinged character he plays.
It’s probably a “better” film than a 6.5 but I didn’t enjoy or like it more than that. Sorry Jake, you were excellent, though!