Short- Nightcrawler is a perverse, sometimes funny, but most of the time an uncomfortably creepy look at free-lance journalism. Gyllenhaal shines in his best performance of his career; he brings this wonderfully crazy character to life to the point where like Louis' stories on murders and car crashes you just can't look away.
Warning- In the 3rd paragraph of this review I go into great detail of the films ending (I have underlined that paragraph…Skip it if you haven’t seen Nightcrawler).
Nightcrawler is the first movie of 2014 that agrees to put its audience in a difficult position from the opening frame, Louis Bloom(Jake Gyllenhaal) is the films main character but he is in no way shape or form the protagonist. In fact Nightcrawler is a movie without a protagonist to speak of. The only relatable member of the cast you will find unless you are either psychotic or a sociopath is Louis’ homeless assistant Rick (Played wonderfully by Riz Ahmed). Rick is the closest thing to an honest to goodness decent human being that has substantial screen time. From the moment we meet Lois Bloom he is stealing wire fencing, man hole covers, and assaulting rent a cops in a Los Angeles rail yard. Gyllenhaal brings the character to life with a wide eyed almost natural creepiness to him, he speaks with a precise almost rhythmic tone even as he blackmails and threatens. He just wants to make money for himself and do it his own way but there is something obviously wrong with Louis Bloom. Every time he opens his mouth you wonder if this guy can actually hear himself speak. There are plenty of times throughout Dan Gilroy's directorial debut that you will find yourself literally squirming in your seat as you watch Bloom attempt to interact with other people. Gilroy's biggest tool is the films over the top score, as Louis breaks laws, and does some twisted, horrible things James Newton Howard’s score plays like we are watching something a lot less grotesque. Newton Howard’s score seems out of place like it belongs in a sports movie or it should be occurring in a moment where the good guy is learning his defining lesson , Instead It plays over murders, accidents, and creepy Louis Bloom as he moves bodies around and breaks laws to create the perfect shot. It makes Nightcrawler almost dreamlike; the score is what brings it to hypnotic new heights not expected by any audience member.
Nightcrawler is an experience to be sure thanks to Gilroy’s direction and Gyllenhaal’s fantastic performance but Gilroy also asks a lot of the audience, a supporting cast that includes a nice comeback role for Rene Russo who plays the news director at a struggling LA TV station who throws away morals and journalistic integrity to get ratings. It helps feed Louis and her actions are questionable at best. Louis Blooms rival another freelancer played by the always pleasant Bill Paxton. A greasy, slimy character and Paxton plays it well, especially as the rivalry heats up and the stakes begin to rise.
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t spend a moment to talk about the ending so before you read any further SPOILER ALERT (I am going to spoil the movies ending now for those of you whom have not yet seen it so please skip this paragraph). People are going to have a fit over the ending of Nightcrawler, Basically Louis puts rick in a situation where he is shot by the bad guys they are following for a story. Louis brings the footage of a massive police shoot out that he provoked, the chase scene, and Ricks demise all of which were purposefully put together by Louis Bloom, to the TV station, he is greeted as a hero. He has done awful, terrible things to this point but he is given pats on the back and the film ends with Louis talking to 4 new members of his team as the pile into his new state of the art trucks. Louis is not this movies good guy, in fact he may well be the movies villain but at the end of Nightcrawler the bad guy wins. It’s an unsatisfying ending, like getting to see a chef cook an incredible meal but only getting to stare at it. It will leave you feeling dirty and gross and totally unsatisfied. This is not an easy moment to deal with, In Gilroy’s story it supports the point of his film that Television news is in total disarray especially in the ethics department but at the same time it does you wishing he got his comeuppance.
Nightcrawler is not an easy movie to watch, it’s creepy, uncomfortable and some may find it unsatisfying but it is Jake Gyllenhaal’s best performance of his career and a nice introduction to the directorial career of Dan Gilroy. It’s a seedy look at the state of local television and journalism as a whole but it is one that will stick with you after it ends.