The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








Nightcrawler (R)

Nightcrawler (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Nightcrawler (R)

A young psychopath finds an outlet for his amorality and scavenger tendencies as a freelance videographer for Los Angeles TV news in Nightcrawler, a creepy character study starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal), whom we first meet while he’s earning money from the sale of stolen scrap metal, stumbles on freelance video when he comes across an accident on the side of the freeway. A freelance videographer (Bill Paxton) is quickly on the screen, nosing his camera into the middle of the smashed up car to get a shot of firefighters pulling a badly wounded person out. Afterward, Louis asks the man about his work — who he’s shooting for, how much he makes. Louis steals a bike and pawns it in exchange for some camera equipment of his own as well as a police scanner, and then he sets out looking for trouble. After a few shots of a lot of nothing, Louis gets some gory footage of a victim from a shooting and heads to KWLA, a local TV station, to sell the footage. It is a right place, right time bit of luck that gets Louis’ amateurish but clearly sensationalistic footage in front of Nina (Rene Russo), the decider when it comes to what runs on the morning news show. Nina buys Louis’ footage and tells him to get better equipment — and to come back when he gets more. Though he can’t quite get her to say “if it bleeds, it leads,” Louis comes away from the meeting with the clear understanding that the gorier his footage, the more it will be appreciated and the more he’ll be paid for it.
Louis quickly gets a helper, whom he hires as something of an intern, in his ghoulish little startup — a semi-homeless man named Rick (Riz Ahmed) whose need for the small amount of cash Louis gives him outstrips any moral qualms he might have. Rick’s job is to help Louis navigate to get to crime/crash scenes faster and, eventually, to shoot footage himself. Louis soon finds himself bumping up against the videographer who first explained the business to him. Paxton’s character offers Louis a chance to work in one of his trucks but after Louis turns him down becomes a fierce competitor who briefly shuts down Louis’ ability to get good shots. (Note: I’m not quite sure of the character’s name. He is called “Joe” on IMDB and “Chris” on the film’s official website; I thought of him as “guy who probably shouldn’t have pissed off an obvious psychopath.”) Naturally, an amoral loner with no sense of proportionate response, Louis finds a way to deal with that situation.
Louis is a can-do guy, especially when it comes to ignoring morals and laws to get what he wants. Need a better shot at a crime scene? Sneak into the crime scene, rearrange a few things and lie about it later to the skeptical KWLA producer (Kevin Rahm). Need a lady companion? Blackmail a colleague, in a truly icksome scene, using her career vulnerabilities to force her into bed. Need to ensure demand for extra coverage of a story? Hold vital pieces of information back from the police so you can arrange the details of a showdown. Louis slimeily manipulates the people around him and stomps his way into tragedy, and often does so while spouting banalities about his goals for success. He believes himself to simply be a superior businessman and doesn’t see his many sins — which range from sleazy to deeply disturbing and disgusting — for the evil they are. Or maybe he does and simply doesn’t care. Gyllenhaal is clearly having a ball playing a character this awful. As extravagantly scuzzy as Louis is, Gyllenhaal never quite lets him become a cartoon. He is a messed up guy who finds a place for himself where his scuzziness blends in or is overlooked for convenience. Louis wouldn’t be allowed to be so terrible if Nina didn’t buy his footage, and though other producers question the ethics of some of what he brings them, we don’t see them quitting in a huff. Graphic images get ratings and ratings save jobs. The movie has as much fun with that dirty little equation as it does with Louis’ bottom-feeding qualities.
Nightcrawler isn’t really funny enough to be a dark comedy, though it has elements of that, nor is it a completely serious drama. It’s a somewhat fun, horror-of-the-soul movie that leaves you craving a hot shower and a good dose of sunshine.
Rated R for violence including graphic images and for language. Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler is an hour and 57 minutes long and distributed by Open Road Films.

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