NIGHTCRAWLER – A Review by John Strange

By: John ’Doc’ Strange
Written & Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Paxton, Rene Russo
MPAA Rating: R (for violence including graphic images, and for language)
Selig Rating: Matinee
Runtime: 117 Min.
Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is not like other people.  He does not really have emotions or at least he does not seem act upon them.  He is a loner who has educated himself using the internet.  He does whatever it takes to earn a living, including stealing metal (wire, chain-link fencing, etc. from construction sites).  He tries to get employment but no one will hire him (possibly because he creeps most people out).
One night while driving on the freeway he comes across the scene of a one car accident where two CHP officers are attempting to get the injured driver out of the vehicle.  As he walks closer to the burning car, a van screams up and out pop two men with video cameras.  They race to the car and shoot video of the rescue.  When questioned, the leader of the duo, Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), informs Louis they are shooting video to sell to TV stations.
This inspires the young man to raise the funds to buy a video camera.  True to his nature, he doesn’t do this in the usual way; he steals a high-end bicycle and works a deal with a pawn shop owner for some cash and a camera barely qualified as such.  It is good enough to record his first event, close up footage of a bloody victim being worked on by EMT’s.  This recording gets him in the door at a station where the night news director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo), needs ratings.  Violence and sensationalism equate to ratings points in her business.  When you are at the bottom in the ratings war, you do whatever gets you ahead of the other stations on stories that grab viewers, including buying footage for these people, called in the business nightcrawlers.
The financial arrangement that grows between Louis (he hates to be called Lou) and Nina is a lucrative one.  Soon he is breaking all sorts of laws to get ever more sensational video for sale.  His broken down little car is replaced by a red sports car.  He hires an intern, a slow young man who is so down on his luck he will do whatever Louis asks.
This is a dark film that shows us the ugly side of a sub-culture where the people make a living by shooting footage of people at their lowest.  These are the guys that regular photojournalists shun lest their bad reputation bring them down, too.  Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Louis is dark and creepy.  The character is amoral in a way Bugs Bunny never even dreamed.  He runs on his own brand of logic and never lets any emotions, except perhaps greed and lust, influence his actions.
If Nightcrawler has any grain of truth to it, some of these guys are pretty bad and very scary.  This made the movie a tough watch for me, a photojournalist in my “day job”.   For the rest of you, you may feel the need to shower when you exit then theater.
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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