Not to be confused with the X-Men character, “Nightcrawler” might sound like just another entry into Marvel’s ever-growing superhero franchise. Instead, it’s Jake Gyllenhaal’s newest vehicle as a slimy, self-serving Los Angeles dweller who stumbles upon the world of freelance video journalism. Unfortunately, “Nightcrawler” was held off this Friday by, what looks to be the insufferable teeny-popper horror film, “Ouija,” although “Nightcrawler” did open to a solid “3.2 Million” and is expected to take the weekend. This Halloween, audiences had “Ouija,” the worst reviewed horror film of the year and Lionsgate’s re-release of James Wan’s “Saw” to choose from for some good October 31st scares. If they’d formerly been fed the accurate message, they’d know “Nightcrawer” offers plenty of ghoulish thrills and frights.
Set in the nocturnal, cutthroat world of nighttime Los Angeles, Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a thieving but admirably determined, outsider who unearths the dark side of newsgathering. After spying the site of a near fatal car accident and the insomniac videographers that shoot it, Lou becomes motivated and purchases a camcorder and police radio scanner of his own in an attempt to make a career for himself. Challenged by two-faced, gluttonous TV-Station producer Nina (Rene Russo), he cruelly weasels his way to the top, preventing anyone or anything to get in his way of digging up high-grade, sensationalized, and graphic video footage.
By merging 2000’s yuppie murder-spree satire “American Psycho” with David Cronenbergs fetishized, automobile collision thriller “Crash” (1996), the resulting product would, in all likelihood, be something similar to “Nightcrawler,” a film that sings a complementary scornful mantra about how evil the world and the people who inhabit it are. It is a quite obvious, spiteful jab at the venomous TMZ-age of news where nothing is off-limits and tragedy is cherished: “Think of our newscast as a screaming woman, running down the street with her throat cut,” Nina describes.
“Nightcrawler” also creates the impression that it’s a scathing indictment of the job market and the psychological pressure it puts on our millennial generation. Lou is quite good at pitching himself at people. Every time he’s turned down a job offer, his pain can be felt. Although his background is left unexplored, he comes off as someone who’s self-educated and very ready and able. He’s an extremely hard worker with a lot to offer, yet no one wants to give him the time of day. This extreme desperation edges an already self-serving, sociopathic individual towards ruthless opportunism, gladly trampling over any inconvenience who gets in his way. Believe me, crossing paths with Lou Bloom makes waving Travis Bickle down for a cab a desirable alternative. In spite of Lou’s snide, misanthropic, and unapologetically amoral actions, I couldn’t help but admire his ambition, and I actually ended up rooting for him. It’s not like the people around him aren’t their own special breed of egocentric scum. Lou later reveals, “What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people, but that I don’t like them?”
Gyllenhaal reportedly lost over 30 pounds for this role in attempt to make Lou look “starved.” It shows. Jake appears malnourished, his cheekbones sunken in just below a pair of dead eyes void of human emotion. There’s a greasy gauntness look to him that’s totally unlike Gyllenhaal as we know him, and in every respect evocative of the empathetic-drained, coyote character he’s transformed into. Not since “Donnie Darko” (2001) have I been so enraptured by a character that Gyllenhaal has crafted. The man is one of the best performers around, so to rank and compare it to his other fantastic performances such as “Jarhead,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Zodiac,” “Brothers,” and “Prisoners” seems arbitrary.
“Nightcrawler” is the best movie made about L.A. since 2011’s “Drive.” Like “Drive,” it also hoists unbearable tension and suspense, offering a riveting car chase sequence and action inspired direction. Even with its merciless, dog-eat-dog rendering of a modern world lacking job security, “Nightcrawler” is a fun movie. It has some laughs to spare in conjunction with its rather unsettling portrait of what’s possible when the economy fails, and career-aspiring motivational speaking is taken to deadly extremes. It’s a film made for the younger generation about being self-sufficient, and that irrational mindset that if we’re not at the top, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. I’m scared by how much I sympathize and relate with Lou, and I feel others will weirdly identify with him as well. “Nightcrawler” is yet another one of Fall’s must-see films, but I strongly believe if you want to see it, “you have to make the money to buy the ticket.” Move over, Patrick Bateman, Lou Bloom is on the job.
Rob Gabe is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RG770214@wcupa.edu.