By Shane M. Dallmann
Yes, you CAN call a movie NIGHTCRAWLER without it being either a horror film or an X-MEN spinoff.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Louis Bloom, introduced as an unemployed thief who’s always looking to improve his situation and stands ready with a litany of self-promoting come-on pitches he learned through obsessive Internet study. Of course, since Lou has no genuine interest in human interaction, his loquacious auto-pilot performances have no effect on his target audience (the fact that he’s a thief also tends to work against him). People are only interested in listening to Lou when he actually HAS something that they want… and once he gains that advantage, he holds on to it relentlessly and remorselessly. As you probably already know from the trailers, fate leads Lou to the potentially lucrative world of crime-scene video commerce…
NIGHTCRAWLER makes no pretense of offering us a character forced to question his morals as his newly profitable enterprise inspires deeper and deeper levels of line-crossing and (soon enough) out-and-out lawbreaking. Lou was NEVER a good guy–he’s an unapologetic misanthrope whose contemptuous smirk almost never leaves his face (he loses composure exactly once and only because someone else beat him to the jackpot). The late Roger Ebert may well have opined that since the movie gives us such an unlikable protagonist, we couldn’t possibly care what happens to him. But that doesn’t mean you won’t want to see what happens next in every situation. Gyllenhaal is quite simply riveting throughout, and we watch with appalled fascination as he deals variously with the TV news director (Rene Russo) who potentially holds the keys to Lou’s dream kingdom; the homeless “production assistant” (Rick Garcia) he snags off the streets; and Bill Paxton as a far more experienced “nightcrawler” who has all the technical advantages that Lou himself lacks. (The TV exec who keeps shouting “This is wrong! This is wrong!” into the wind is ignored without consequence by pretty much everybody else, if you’re looking for that one spoken nod to human morality–the movie itself screams that message with or without him.)
As a result, the climactic suspense sequence (as Lou arranges his biggest “coup” yet–you’ll notice that I’ve gone out of my way to tell you as little about the actual plot as possible) is every bit as excruciating as it would be if you actually feared for Lou’s life.
For once, the frantic critical blurbs are quite accurate–NIGHTCRAWLER does, indeed, rank as one of the year’s standout films. It was a pity to see it take a back seat to the second week of OUIJA when it opened, but what do you expect on Halloween weekend? And now INTERSTELLAR’s going to push EVERYTHING out of its path.
Do yourself a favor and see this one before it crawls away…