Nightcrawler is grotesque, an express delivery service for laughter and revulsion. That’s an appropriate mode for a film that is at once a thriller, a social commentary on shock journalism, a satire of the Managerial Man, and a study in obsession. And writer/director Dan Gilroy and his team pull it off.
Jake Gyllenhaal leads the grubby cast as Lou Bloom, an obsessive, manic aspiring businessman with the perfect name. We meet Bloom stripping copper wire in the dead of night. When confronted by a security guard (with a nice watch), Bloom slithers from polite explanation to murder in the blink of an eye. It’s the opposite of a Save the Cat moment, and it sets the tone for what follows.
Soon after this encounter, Bloom passes a vicious accident—cops pulling a woman from burning wreckage. Where some would stare, despite not wanting to, Bloom gets out of his car and gets as close to the scene as possible. A blubby unshaven man muscles past him to get a good shot. This is Joe Loder (played by Bill Paxton), a man who can make a line like “Welcome to the future, brah” sing even when we were supposed to have hit peak irony a few years ago. He’s a stringer, a camera man who chases accidents in the hope of selling footage to TV stations—and he’s just shown Bloom the perfect job. The story is filled out with an excellent cast of grubby characters, from Bloom’s homeless intern Rick (Riz Ahmed) to aging, vulnerable TV producer Nina (Rene Russo).
If you wished Gone Girl had focused more on the world of popular news, Nightcrawler is for you. As Loder puts it, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Nina is up front with Bloom: bring her gory footage from well-off white neighborhoods. ...1