Satirical thriller Nightcrawler beckons us in to the vulturous industry of capturing human roadkill on tape. Apparently, opportunists can make a tidy sum by being first on the scene of a crime and capturing the tragedy – the bloodier the footage, the bigger the buck.
A slender, particularly bug-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal is Lou Bloom – a deadbeat oddball on the seedy streets of LA. He’s obsessive, deceptively dangerous and has an air of Norman Bates about him. He converses as if rigidly reading aloud from every Dummy’s Guide To… and naff self-help book ever to be plonked in an airport bookshop. After Lou discovers the lucrative underground world of being in the wrong place at the right time while holding a camcorder, there’s no going back to the petty crimes he once indulged.
As business booms, Lou recruits Rick (Riz Ahmed), a nervy rookie who’s adorably impressionable and desperate for cash – the perfect personality for making a minion.
Lou’s perseverance to his new trade pays off quickly and he lands the favour of Nina (Rene Russo) the big shot at a small time TV news station. She spots his potential whereas he sees a desperate (and foxy), woman on the hunt for car crash telly to remedy the TV network’s flagging ratings.
It’s the relationship between Lou and Nina that causes Nightfall’s demise. The attempt of creating a sexual fizz just amounts to an ejaculation of disappointing smut. Lou gives Nina the creeps in his clinical approach to getting his leg over and she wafts away his slimy advances. Yet her mighty character is soon axed to size as Lou finds her weak spot of being a lonely older woman at the top of the shortest tree.
Dan Gilroy (screenwriter for Bourne Legacy), has put the pen down for this directorial debut and although showing flashes of superiority, seems like he has a few more things to learn in the art of depth and tension. Luckily, Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is enough to provide the allure. He does a fine job of being a morbid magpie and is creepy yet charming enough to engage with throughout.
Nightcrawler’s theme can be read as a pop-essay on ‘who’s shooting who in the media’, which sits snug between sensationalist and satire. Sure, you’ll consider the callous and industrial approach to sexing up the news, but don’t expect to lose any sleep over it. Perhaps to its misfortune, it just doesn’t get that deep.