Local American TV news, not well known for subtlety or high moral and ethical standards, “if it bleeds, it leads” encapsulates the approach to the dinner time serving of pain and misery.
Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a loser, his sallow looks and gaunt frame signify he is not climbing the ladder, he remains on the bottom rung and may even fall off. What Lou does have is an insatiable desire to read business advice, he knows how to run a business, he just doesn’t have one to run.
Mooching from a painful attempt at job employment interspersed with a bit of random stealing, he unexpectedly alights upon his calling, finally something he is good at.
With no discernible compassion, or moral compass and motivated only by money, sensationalism and the ephemeral thrill of hearing his name on TV he finds a perfect home, American local news network in LA.
Stumbling on a man shot during a robbery, he encounters the “Nightcrawlers”. Freelance news crews acting like sharks sensing blood, they hunt out carnage and pain. Pointing a video camera in that direction, they sell the content to the highest bidder.
Despite clashing with more established teams run by Joe (Bill Paxton), Lou strikes up a relationship with the local struggling news show producer Rina (Rene Russo), who like everyone else pays for the footage, the more blood the better.
Teaming up with a naive intern Rick (Riz Ahmed) he starts to climb the ladder of “respectability”, dispensing business advice to his wide eyed “employee” as he goes along.
If you believe that such networks are fulfilling a public service, truly educating their audience to the news of the day, this may not be the film you are looking for.
If however, you believe networks will sensationalise events, cause anxiety and place victims on prime time TV in their most desperate hour, thereby increasing ratings and advertising revenue, you have come to the right place.
Director Dan Gilroy, keeps the film dark, neon washed, hard edged and raw. Despite the modern setting, there is an old fashioned film noir inspired feel. The dialogue fits the character Gyllenhaal has created, something is off, not quite right. A person existing in the real world but remaining just off stage, never really coexisting with those around him.
How far is Lou prepared to go, to get what he wants and how he achieves his aims, would make Machiavelli proud.
Gyllenhaal is excellent, the camera barely leaves him and he holds the audience attention, the supporting characters all add to the believability and the film does not outstay it’s welcome.
Lou provides this concluding advice, “I will never ask you to do anything I have not done myself”, by the end of the movie, this provides no re-assurance at all.
An excellent thriller/drama with a superbly nuanced performance from Gyllenhaal.
A morally bankrupt and bleak peek into a neon washed LA night-scape, a dangerous, unforgiving and lonely place after dark.