The Nightcrawler under Your Skin

I did not turn on a movie called Nightcrawler for the laughs and the good feels. And it’s a good thing, too. Nightcrawler takes a character that is obsessively ambitious, knows no limits, and possesses an intelligence hinting on autism, and it introduces him to the world of shock value news. Apparently one man can accomplish a great deal if he doesn’t take “no” for an answer and pressures his buyers to the point of blackmail.

Most of this movie takes place at night, when all the robbers, murderers, and drug lords come out to play. Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a thief by nature, spends his nights filming crimes and accidents for money. He buys a police scanner and a camcorder, hires an intern, and takes to the streets, rushing to the scene of one brutal crime after the next. Lou then sells his footage to Nina (Rene Russo), the director of a competitive 6:00 a.m. news broadcast. Her eagerness encourages Lou to make a business out of his nightly obstruction of justice, convincing him that a successful freelancer captures the best (meaning bloody) footage. Lou pushes progressively harder to arrive at crime scenes as soon as possible, sometimes beating the cops and sometimes taking the initiative to move a body for that perfect angle. Where Lou is concerned, you can bet he’ll get the perfect shot no matter the cost.

The real star of this movie is Jake Gyllenhaal. From the way he walks, to his speech mannerisms, to his dark, hollow eyes, Lou is a full on creepazoid. It’s not hard to believe he films gunshot victims for fun. Just when you think Lou is starting to build a moral compass he turns around and races in the opposite direction, pushing people aside to get as far away as possible. A simple sell becomes a pressured deal which, with enough resistance, turns into flat out blackmail. People find it hard to say no to Lou and Lou finds it even harder to be refused.

The pace of the film is relatively slow, moving from one crime scene to the next with gradually escalating violence. The final crime and Lou’s unethical involvement in it, however, is straight out of an action movie. How weird it must have been for Gyllenhaal to perform each scene as if he were behind the camera rather than in front of it. Like a messed up version of a movie-within-a-movie.

Where Nightcrawler gets me, I guess, is where it should get me. Lou is almost too creepy with his all-around look and shocking lack of compassion. He’s a schemer who is addicted to knowledge, regurgitating facts whenever silence threatens a conversation. I feel no sympathy for this character or, in fact, for any of the characters, all of them being either too greedy or too stupid. Nightcrawler is despicably brilliant in that way, but still not a film I would voluntarily watch again. Seeing Lou step over laws and social boundaries to get the breaking footage of bleeding corpses seemed, for some reason, to get under my skin – which I’m sure is the whole point of the movie. 7.5/10.

Nightcrawler trailer.

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