Jake Gyllenhaal gives the performance of his career as Louis Bloom, a low-level thief with delusions of grandeur who trips across the one job for which he is mentally and emotionally perfect, a job he never knew existed: freelance video journalist. When a chance meeting with a successful “Nightcrawler” (an excellent Bill Paxton) reveals the potential profitability of such work, Louis trades a stolen bicycle for a video camera, and is off to the races. When he scores an exceptionally nasty piece of footage, he sells it to a desperate, aging TV news producer (Renne Russo, matching Gyllenhaal scene for scene as the morally ambivilent, ambitious Nina Romina, who is both turned on and repulsed by Bloom. Yerch) and begins a spiral into…what?
“Nightcrawler” is exactly what “Wolf Of Wall Street” wanted to be, IMHO, and missed because of the differential between the glamour of the life presented and the damage being done. “Wolf” had an obligation to explain WHY this behavior was wrong: it would be entirely too possible to say: “well, why SHOULDN’T Di Caprio exaggerate? Isn’t that what all salesmen do? Isn’t that the American Way?” because the world of Wall street is more arcane, the moral lines so complicated that without a moral compass, it would be very, very easy to get lost.
No such problem here. This world, of sticking cameras into the faces of grieving victims, rearranging bodies to get the best shot, invading and violating crime scenes and withholding evidence from the police…Gyllenhaal is so fascinatingly leaned-out and dead eyed, so brilliant in one aspect of his life and empty in all others, so simultaneously seductive and rapey as the bottom-feeding Bloom that you can’t take your eyes off him, but by the end of the film you know EXACTLY where you are on the moral map, and whether or not you would want to be Bloom, let alone do business with him.
This is terrific filmmaking, and Gyllenhaal deserves a “Best Actor” Nomination for certain. Wow. Tough watch. You’ll never look at the evening news the same way again. But you’ll watch it, because human beings are wired to crane their heads to watch train wrecks.