director Dan Gilroy
Longtime screenwriter Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut, Nightcrawler, is a glimpse into another seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. Through the character of a cypher named Lou, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, we see the city’s nightlife and the gruesome toll of traffic, crime, and human misery.
Starting as a minor criminal with hopes of something more, Lou discovers the racket that is ambulance-chasing cameramen, those who get the video that leads because it has bled, a callous uncaring for the reality that the camera captures, Lou sees this opportunity as a path to corporate success. He buys himself some cheap equipment and pushes himself into the scene as a freelance cameraman peddling to LA’s lowest rungs of television news, finding a willing partner and accomplice in Nina (Rene Russo), a producer willing to push the boundaries of good taste.
It’s a psychological affair. And a creepy one too. And beautifully shot and well-conceived.
Lou is both a budding filmmaker (an artist!) but more than that, he’s a budding businessman. He quickly hires on a lackey, spewing fake corporate mumbo jumbo at him as if he truly runs a major corporation with real human resources and a ladder to climb. Lou is self-made though he’s still in the midst of that construction. He’s not one to quibble if he has to rearrange a crime scene to make it more dramatic, nor is he unwilling to cross into crime scenes to capture gory images without police consent, or even unwilling to orchestrate a brutal and bloody crime scene of his own doing. He’s as American as apple pie, a corporate climber, a man of industry.
And dark. Heartless, ruthless, and utterly amoral.
If anything, Lou’s cypher-like persona reads odd to me only because he’s a man in his thirties. In some ways, if the character was played by someone younger, his gross naivitee and rapid assimilation of information and adaptation to the games would make more sense. As a man in his thirties, I wonder what he’s been up to all this time before and the hole of a backstory seems more problematic.
As my only real complaint, I’ll leave it at that. Pretty good movie overall.