Poster

Jake Gyllenhaal sure plays creepy very well.

Somehow, Gyllenhaal manages to blink no more than once or twice throughout Nightcrawler. Don’t be surprised to see Gyllenhaal nominated for an Oscar. He’s come a long way from Bubble Boy.

In all his gaunt glory, Gyllenhaal’s creepiness comes through the screen to make you uncomfortable as everyone else appears to be in this film. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of Nightcrawler’s accomplishments. The character of Louis Bloom is played to perfection by Jake Gyllenhaal, but he’s so utterly unlikable. Basically, Louis Bloom is a sociopath with no semblance of a personality.

It’s not that Bloom is immoral. Instead, this is an amoral character with no true sense of right and wrong. The question of right and wrong doesn’t matter in his world. Only goals matter. And any objects in his path will be obliterated by the sheer force of his determination. Through this character’s eyes, people are objects to be exploited and manipulated by the person with more power. It’s all a means to an end.

Scream

Louis Bloom is the type of person who describes himself as a self-starter, which should give you an idea of how much you should hate this character. Bloom forgoes a traditional education to teach himself the way of the world. With a history of petty thief and a long track record hustling for a living, no one will hire Louis Bloom. But everything falls together when Bloom stumbles upon an accident where a cold, heartless camera crew arrives and starts filming paramedics attempting to save the victim’s life.

“If it bleeds, it leads,” is the first life lesson handed down by Joe Loder (played by Bill Paxton).

After Loder blows off Bloom’s job inquiry, Louis decides to copy Loder’s set-up and do the job himself. And so a new entrepreneurial career starts. The journey from street roach to a rather successful businessman is largely boring and uninteresting. For the most part, the only thing capable of capturing the audience’s attention is Gyllenhaal’s presence on the screen and command of this creepy character.

Unfortunately, the supporting cast isn’t given much to do and the narrative isn’t up to the same level as Gyllenhaal’s acting. Rene Russo does a respectable job as the desperate news executive, Nina Romina, who buys Bloom’s “news” footage of bloody accidents and crimes. Bill Paxton performs at his typical, entertaining level, but the character of Joe Loder isn’t given enough screen time to be memorable.

Riz Ahmed

In fact, the best supporting character is Bloom’s assistant Rick (played by Riz Ahmed, most notably as Omar from Four Lions). Rick is both willing and unwilling to go along with Bloom and his increasingly dangerous antics. But Rick needs the money and he’s desperate to do anything for enough dough.

Nightcrawler isn’t a bad movie, but the story is a disappointment for a film coming out in the fall with fellow Oscar contenders. As a character study, Nightcrawler fails because there’s no compelling element to Louis Bloom. Movies like American Psycho and There Will Be Blood work as character-driven narratives because the protagonist is actually interesting. This is a significant issue for Nigthcrawler since 99.9% of what happens on the screen is restricted to Louis Bloom and the interior of his car.

Gyllenhaal’s impressive acting can only carry Nightcrawler so far.

Excuse Me

3.5 out of 5 stars

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