No Jobs, No Hope, and Blood-Soaked Cash in Nightcrawler [Review]


Watching Jake Gyllenhaal as the earnestly amoral Lou Bloom, you’re immediately drawn to his eyes, almost perpetually wide. Gyllenhaal’s subtle yet transparently surface level mannerisms are a huge part of his performance here, but there’s special emphasis on how cartoonishly doe-like his eyes become as Bloom bullshits his way in and out of a series of bad situations. Noticeably, he wears sunglasses in his few daytime appearances, like a vampire. Bloom’s eyes are a weapon, the source of the power he wields over those unfortunate enough to be around him. Nightcrawler, a directorial debut for screenwriter Dan Gilroy, is a combination character study, media satire, and stylish neo-noir.


The eternally typecast Gyllenhaal, free to play a real nasty piece of work, shines here as the unsettlingly work-hungry petty criminal Bloom. After selling a construction foreman some pilfered fence materials, Lou Bloom appeals to him for a job in an obviously canned speech.

Excuse me, sir. I’m looking for a job. In fact, I’ve made my mind up to find a career that I can learn and grow into. Who am I? I’m a hard worker, I set high goals, and I’ve been told that I’m persistent. Now I’m not fooling myself, sir. Having been raised with the self-esteem movement so popular in schools, I used to expect my needs to be considered. But I know that today’s work culture no longer caters to the job loyalty that could be promised to earlier generations.

When the foreman, wisely, tells him he isn’t “hiring a fucking thief,” Bloom responds with a weird “ah well can’t win ‘em all” sort of sheepishness that implies zero introspection. We hear versions of this practiced spiel again as the movie goes on and Bloom realizes his dream job: videotaping the pain and misery of others for local TV news. Outside of this, Bloom has no interests, no hobbies, no loved ones. He sits in his small apartment alone, watering his plant and watching the news. Bloom has nothing, save for his job, which he proves willing to kill to keep. 

One of Nightcrawler’s more intriguing elements is how it retrofits standard noir thriller desperation to reflect modern day anxieties of the unemployed. Even beyond Bloom, nearly every major character in the film is worried about not having a job or losing their job. For example, Bloom’s scratchy voiced assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed) is essentially homeless and willing to work for $30 a night, and Bloom’s news director connection Nina (Rene Russo) is on the verge of losing her job if she can’t boost morning ratings. Nightcrawler recognizes, even beyond the money it brings, how important “work” is as a function of human identity. We watch as Bloom metamorphosizes from unscrupulous job seeker to unscrupulous self-employed “job creator.” Despite not caring about his professional qualifications beyond having access to a smartphone, Bloom almost sadistically forces Rick go through the motions of a job interview because, well, that’s what employers do, right?

Even as we watch Bloom commit increasingly darker transgressions, from crime scene manipulation to withholding valuable evidence from police to premeditated murder, we only really begin to understand exactly what kind of monster he is after he pressures Nina into going out on a “date” with him at a Mexican restaurant. Since Bloom is incapable in seeing human beings outside the concept of “work,” in his mind Nina is a natural fit to be his girlfriend. After she politely rejects his advances, Bloom lists her employment track record and how important his footage is to her job stability in order to coerce her into a sexual relationship. What sells the scene is that Gyllenhaal does all this as he scarfs down a plate of nachos, as if it were the most natural conversation in the world.


Russo’s performance as Nina, as well as Bill Paxton’s turn as a rival veteran “nightcrawler,” are understated but crucial supporting roles. Paxton’s signature scumminess is pitch perfect here, and Russo gives Nina an effortless weariness she discards instantly when praising or screaming at Bloom for delivering/not delivering the footage she craves. Both characters are mentors of sorts for Bloom, teaching him the finer points of catching ratings-grabbing video of gruesome traffic accidents or wealthy home invasions.

While ultimately the film’s satirical bent feels like it takes a backseat to character focus, Nightcrawler has moments of laser-precision sharpness. “The news is like a screaming woman, running down the street with her throat cut” explains Nina, after advising Bloom that the kind of footage that sells best involves bad things happening to upper-class whites in nice neighborhoods. Bloom and other nightcrawlers swarm to crime scenes like flies, their presence upsetting frightened bystanders and interfering with police and medical personnel efforts. Director Gilroy sets up his accident scenes with just the right kind of ambiguous tension and unease, taking his time before showing us the blood-soaked victims of whatever calamity Bloom has stumbled into that night. 

Jake Gyllenhaal plays an unscrupulous news cameraman in the thriller Nightcrawler

More Wolf of Wall Street than Chinatown, the uneasy conclusion of Nightcrawler carries a strange inevitability to it in the way the best endings do. Bloom, having gone from a small cog to a victorious master manipulator of the police-news media chain, dispenses his empty self-help guru platitudes to a group of “interns.” “Remember. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself,” he reminds them before they head out into the darkness in a small fleet of vans, looking to feed off the misery of others.

Nightcrawler is now playing in theaters nationwide. 

Post By Max Robinson (106 Posts)

Deadshirt staff writer. Conceived by the unholy union of Zeus (in the guise of a corn dog) and ED-209. Has written for City Paper, Courthouse News. Twitter famous.


One thought on “No Jobs, No Hope, and Blood-Soaked Cash in Nightcrawler [Review]

  1. Nightcrawler seems like a satire to modern television news about how they choose their leads or often seek for more ratings by entertaining their viewers rather than aim straightly to the facts. But there is a much interesting story beneath here and that is the main character, Louis Bloom. The guy that easily manipulates people with his sinister tricks of persuasion. Everything else may just be the natural world of crime and accidents, but in the eyes of this character, the experience is made far stranger and oddly fascinating. This provides a compellingly menacing and provoking piece of commentary which results to such engrossing film.

    What the plot mostly does is to fully absorb the viewers into the character of Bloom by studying his sociopathic behavior and the words coming out from his mouth. He is a charming young man with a dark intention hidden behind his grins. He pushes the limits of the law and his own safety, only to accomplish on what he must do in the job, even if it risks many people’s lives. The actions of this antihero is ought to feel terrifying on how it affects to both the business he’s working on and the society he is watching. The media’s side however is more of a picture of cynicism on how they broadcast the scariest stories of the city, giving the people fear so they could earn more viewers out of the concern. It just breaks down on how the evil of their success is disguised as their own ethics.

    The filmmaking perfectly captures their night’s work. You couldn’t clearly see the scenario they shoot unless you watch them on a video footage. The violence and peril they witness are shown without any hint of sympathy, since they only use them for the news show. The horror of these gritty scenes once again belongs to the nightcrawler. Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the biggest highlights here. His character obviously has the personality of a psychotic villain; he is mostly bluffing, and by the dashing enthusiasm he shows to the people around him, you probably may not know when his inner total madness will burst out from his frightening eyeballs, and that provides more tension than you expect. This is one of the Gyllenhaal performances that will be remembered for his career.

    Out of common sense, this story may lead its main character to a moral about how much he is taking this job too far, probably destroying his humanity. But no, this guy is relentless, almost inhumane, and his style in fact helps his career grow bigger, which turns out we are actually rooting for a villain. And that probably pictures to some oppressive ambitious beings out there behind some system. This is where things go in the end, bringing an outcome to a social satire. You can spot a lot of relevance even when some of the situations get a little out of hand. Nightcrawler is something else than a sentiment, what we must focus here is Lou Bloom: a new, possibly iconic, movie vigilante, except the only skin he is purposely saving is himself and his career.

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