Dark. Erratic. Eccentric. These are only a few of the descriptions that come to mind when identifying lead character, Lou Bloom, of “Nightcrawler” with a perfected creepy performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Lou is a driven, albeit off-kilter, guy who sells stolen fencing material in order to make a dollar. On his way home one night, he stops at the scene of a car accident where he literally bumps into cameraman Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), also looking to make a buck (several hundred, in fact) by selling his video footage to local news stations.
Lou, a self-proclaimed quick learner, steals a bike to pawn for cash, a video camera, and police scanner. Thus, his entry into the heart of L.A. crime and the drive to capture the “money shot.” His goal: draw in viewers for KWLA, a sinking TV station with a news editor Nina (Rene Russo) who has caught Lou’s eye, and draw in big time payouts.
As predicted, Lou quickly catches on to what the station is looking for, learning police codes, and hiring an intern, Rick (Riz Ahmed), who upon his own desperation takes the job for fifty bucks cash a night to help Lou on his night crawls.
Gyllenhaal single-handedly propels the movie forward and into the gray areas of media propaganda and journalistic integrity that become blurred for the sake of the story. In a self-righteous rattling of statistics, Lou ascertains that it takes a mere 22 seconds of headlines and news clips for broadcasters to get us caught up on everything happening in the country.
His eccentric personality and candor draws chuckles from the audience. His straightforward take on negotiating, what it means to be an entrepreneurial young business person in L.A. (he makes his intern “VP” with a twenty-five dollar raise), and his direct line between what he wants and how is going to get it shows that though he may be weird, he has the goods to back it up. He has the devil-may-care attitude down pat.
Ghosts, psycho clowns, serial killers – those are Halloween amateurs compared to the true-to-life mix of egotism and crazy that Lou embodies. Crazy is unpredictable and unpredictable is scary.
With plenty of twists that never distract from the central story, “Nightcrawler” should be embraced for its originality and fast-paced look at the risks crime journalists take to avoid being scooped. After all, when Lou’s crime scenes run low, he improvises with staged additions of his own, which if following goals of any good businessman, can anyone blame him?