Spoilers have some footage to sell you.
We’ve had a corporate raider, a tobacco lobbyist and an arms dealer. It’s time to close this run of Slightly Odd with our final antagonist-protagonist… A one-man camera crew freelancer that sells shock footage. I’m stretching the concept a bit since recording shock videos is not necessarily the most amoral profession in the world. It’s just that for our last character, videographer Louis Bloom, the chances open up once you’re willing to slip past the police tape.
Nightcrawler (2014) was written and directed by Dan Gilroy. On the surface, the profession of freelance crime journalism already seems a bit seedy, but for Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) there seems to be quite an opportunity. Louis is not a man that lets something as meaningless as the law or ethics get in the way. He’s the darker side of the american dream, a man who has educated himself with motivational tapes and online courses that have catered to his ego. There’s nothing wrong with trying to educate oneself, but when one lacks a moral compass, self-aggrandizing speech can be a drug.
There’s something cringy in the way that Louis talks when he’s got his game face on. I have to say this is a character more disturbing than the film he’s on. Louis exemplifies the self-taught man that wants to impress you but has nothing to say. He’s not as smart as he thinks, but he’s fooled himself into believing so. The most positive thing I can say is that he thrives on opportunity, specially when he goes off the rails. The way he speaks makes my skin crawl.
We see him get into the profession by accident, as he literally runs into an accident and stops. It’s not empathy that drives his actions. He’s just curious. That curiosity peaks when he sees Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) filming the accident and learns it can be sold for profit to the local news stations. Turned down by Loder after asking for a job, Louis grabs some easy cash by stealing something and pawning it off so he can obtain a police scanner and his first camera.
After a few rookie mistakes, Louis starts learning how to dodge the cops and grab some truly shocking video. It’s then that he finds a kindred soul in station manager Nina Romina (Rene Russo). He’s smart enough to realize that Nina is smarter than him at this business – for now. Nina recognizes how Louis has the eye to capture appalling feature. I also think she probably recognizes he doesn’t really restraint himself from walking the line either, which suits her well so she encourages that behavior.
The harder moments to watch personally start when Louis decides to hire a partner – which he immediately tries to sucker in, first as an unpaid intern and then as low-wage employee. Rick (Riz Ahmed) doesn’t look like he has much of a choice in the matter, except he needs money just as bad. Whether he first believes all the bullshit that Louis blatantly spews or just pretends, is debatable. He’s still someone that hesitates to cross certain lines so he ends getting scolded on their first excursions. Eventually Louis is bound to get both of them into real deep trouble.
It’s a great movie about a very lowly character. It captures the LA crime scenes vividly and realistically, including the bright lights of the camera on top of car crashes and bloody shooting aftermaths. Jake Gyllenhaal does a great performance as the slick sociopath that pretends to be more than he is and gets away with it. His behavior seems encouraged by the news station’s need to have exclusive footage of the latest tragedy with complete disregard for the people involved. Our degree of complicity comes from the times we’ve consumed that product.
Highly recommended for discerning viewers because I worry that people without morals might watch this and think about going into the nightcrawler business themselves. Obviously, casual viewers looking for something light and families should abstain. Discretion is advised for implied graphical scenes more than actual scenes themselves. You’ve probably seen those on the news already. You’re not watching exclusive footage here.
That will do for now.