Nightcrawler is a film directed and written by Dan Gilroy and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Renee Russo (who, incidentally, is married to Dan Gilroy), for the most part. It was released October 31, 2014, in the USA. Its plot concerns Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a shiftless young man trying to find work wherever he can. He stumbles on a crime scene and becomes fascinated with the work of independent crime scene videographers. He decides to become one himself, and before long he's one of the most successful shooters in the trade, even surpassing his rival Joe Loder (Bill Paxton). The footage he films is sold to a lowly-rated TV news channel, KWLA, run by Nina Romina (Rene Russo), at first for a pittance, and within a year up to the point where he can afford to buy a new, fast sports car and top-of-the-line recording equipment.
As Bloom rises to the top of the grim world of crime scene videography, he becomes a creepy, amoral automaton. His eyes begin to reflect the carnage he has seen. The film depicts his rise to the top and, consequently, the erosion of his personality and morals. By the end of the film, he's arriving at crime scenes before the police do and when he becomes bored with that, he takes to withholding crimes he recorded from the police before their arrival in his quest for who will pay the most money for the footage. He arranges for Loder to be in a crippling car accident by loosening the lug nuts on his van; Loder survives but the implication is that he barely does. Bloom is briefly reprimanded by the police near the end, but for all the morally ambiguous behavior he exhibited while doing his job, he doesn't even really get a slap on the wrist.
The film ends with Bloom starting his own news footage company and even has a few employees to extend his reach.
This film, such as it is, could have been so much better. Gyllenhaal plays his character as a creepy, stalker-ish, amoral man willing to lie, cheat and steal to succeed. Russo is alright as the frazzled news director of KWLA, and other than those two characters, Paxton and Rick Garcia (playing a character with the same name) as Bloom's hired assistant are the only other characters with much in the way of dialog and screen-time. There are a lot of actual news industry people making cameo appearances as themselves—Kent Shocknek, Pat Harvey, Sharon Tay and Bill Steward, among others, all of whom are well-known in the Los Angeles TV news industry appear but none for more than a few seconds.
My girlfriend and I watched this film after seeing it in the New Releases section on Netflix. We both found it pretty underwhelming. For a crime drama that takes place almost entirely at night, its lack of a foreboding atmosphere and a definitive goal make it somewhat confusing and ultimately unfulfilling. If you want to see Jake Gyllenhaal really shine in a crime drama, see 2012's End of Watch, which is a much better crime drama with real direction and outstanding performances, all things Nightcrawler lacks. Another crime drama, 2007's Zodiac, showcases his talent for this sort of role, but it's just not visible here.
The users of the IMDB rate this a surprisingly high 7.9 out of 10.0 (at the time of writing); I rated it a 6.0, and that's being generous. Gyllenhaal as the amoral videographer is grudgingly interesting to watch as he's constantly flipping between a condescending attitude towards all others and placing himself into real danger while hunting for new stories to sell. His character is really unlikable here and frankly, I'm surprised he took the roll. I mean, I don't even remember this movie being released to theatres and I'd bet the producers didn't make their money back (whoops, I'm wrong here—see below). Additionally, there are so many continuity goofs and plot holes that conflict with real life I'm surprised it was released at all. Bloom is constantly breaking the law by contaminating/invading crime scenes, is constantly driving recklessly on his way to the crime of the minute, and he treats his assistant (Garcia) like shit.
I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone other than people obsessed with the subject or any of the people appearing in it, and even then, I'd proceed cautiously. There are much better ways to spend two hours, and there are much better Jake Gyllenhaal movies to watch. So if you, too, have noticed this film displayed prominently on the Netflix main screen, I kindly recommend you skip it. In the end, it's just stupid and, according to the IMDB message board for this film, nothing like real-life crime scene photographers or videographers, even though Gyllenhaal trained with real-life people who make it their profession.
Almost the entire cast is unknown. Here are the few actors with prominent roles:
Nightcrawler had a budget of $8 million USD and managed to rake in $38.6 million USD worldwide, so unlike my previous assumption (above), it made its money back and even turned a profit, almost certainly driven by Gyllenhaal's appearance. Without him, I think this would have been straight to video or straight to Netflix. Yep, it's really that bland and uninteresting. If I had $8 million, ... well, let's just say I wouldn't use it to make a silly, unregarded film like this.
I was going to try to write this review for Brevity Quest 15 but I found that I had too much to say about it to qualify. I went over the limit by about 700 words. Oh well. Maybe next time.