The strength of this movie is in the star performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom, a character that is so very disturbing that’s he’s impossible to like. Lou Bloom earns his living by being in the wrong place at the right time. A single-minded stringer that will go the extra mile and beyond to get what he wants. Motivated by money he learns very quickly how to exploit a local news station.
When we first come across Lou I suppose you could describe him as a ‘chancer’ that is someone that can utilise a situation to enrich his own ends. Armed with only his motor mouth he witnesses a freelance camera crew, led by Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), filming a near fatal car crash. Questioning Loder he finds out there is money to be made getting to a ‘disaster scene’ before any other news hounds get there and selling the resulting video footage to the highest bidder for broadcast on the early morning news, “If it bleeds it leads” Loder tells him. Trading a stolen racing bicycle for a camcorder and a radio scanner, Bloom films the bloody aftermath of a car jacking. Offering it to Nina Romina, a Los Angeles morning news director, who agrees to purchase his recording and the story headlines the following morning broadcast. She recognises his fortitude and encourages him to continue to spend his nights trawling the police airwaves to get footage. She explains that the material must include violent incidents that referable take place in affluent neighbourhoods, explaining that this type of material can increase the stations ratings. Hiring Rick (the excellent British actor Riz Ahmed) as a rather naïve assistant on $30 dollars a night Bloom sets off on his new, hopefully lucrative, career. But its not just Lou Bloom who pushes the realms of decency but his new boss played by the extremely attractive 60-year-old Rene Russo who constantly drives him ever harder to get just the right footage.
Screened at the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre as part of this season Film Club, Nightcrawler (2014) was introduced by our host for the evening Rachel Findlay who told us a little about freelance press agency’s in Los Angeles. It was the American broadcast reporter and scientist Robert Tur who is credited with designing and building one of the first modern news helicopters used for ‘live’ reporting. With the help of his former wife Marika Gerrard, Tur founded the Los Angeles News Service in the 1970’s. This agency is said to have been one of the first to film a high-speed police chase but really came to fruition during the LA Riots, known as the Rodney King Riots, which took place between April and May 1992. Gerrard was also the first to locate and televise O. J. Simpsons infamous slow speed chase in 1994.
A surprisingly high percentage of the audience stayed behind after the screening with an in depth discussion following, including the lack of empathy we all had with both main characters and how we were undecided about who was worse, the ultra creepy Bloom or the unscrupulous Nina Romina, with both living off human misery and turning it into ratings and money. But I believe the true culprit in all this is the ever more demanding television audience’s without whom this type of ‘shock value news broadcasting’ would not be necessary!
This polished neo-noir type thriller has already been nominated for a whole bundle of rewards including an acting Golden Globe for Gyllenhaal and its difficult to believe that Nightcrawler is Dan Gilroy’s first outing as a feature film director and writer, who to date has been best known for his co-writing on films which have included Real Steel (2011) and The Bourne Legacy (2012). He is also the husband of Ms Russo.
In conclusion I would highly recommend this movie if for no other reason than to witness an actor (Gyllenhaal) at the very top of his form.