Year: 2014
Production Co: Bold Films
Director: Dan Gilroy
Producer: Tony Gilroy/Jake Gyllenhaal
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed

This film is actually a very insightful study into characterisation, and not in a good way. It's proof that there's a big difference between having an unlikable character and a character you just don't like.

The Joker, Darth Vader, Gordon Gekko and Fred Krueger are all unlikable characters we love. The anti-hero of Nightcrawler, Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaaal), isn't necessarily a bad person within the movie, he's just a terrible character to exist in the world depicted.

Bloom is a petty criminal making a living pawning stolen goods when two things happen. First, he comes across a freeway crash and sees a news crew roll up and start filming. Second, he swaps a stolen bicycle for a video camera and starts fancying himself a freelance news videographer, driving around looking for accidents, murders and all manner of grisly sights to sell to the bloodthirsty news media.

It's never made explicitly clear that Lou is mentally ill in some way, but he seems so completely disconnected from the way people really behave it's often the cause for unintended laughter. We see too many movies where the lead is a bland proxy for the audience, but in this case – with Lou the prism through which we discover a new world – it would have been less jarring.

He's overly, ridiculously officious about owning a company and providing a service like he's some sort of multinational corporation, and the way he deals with people makes it seem he has ADHD or Asperger's Syndrome. In creating a character like it, it seems writer/director Dan Gilroy (brother of big name Tony and a successful screenwriter in his own right) wants to make a modern day psychopath mired in the scum of the big city's mean streets, a Travis Bickle archetype who finds himself at home amid the violence on the streets of LA.

Instead, Lou is an irritating dork who never seems smart enough to make out as good as he does in his new career. He gloms onto news producer Nina (Rene Russo), whose network rises and falls on the kind of shock news coverage Lou provides, and makes a big show of hiring an unemployed and near-homeless kid who likewise finds himself at the receiving end of Lou's constant delusions.

Lou soon realises that he has to prolong – even partly stage – the news he's chasing to stay ahead of the game. There's a shocking moment when he coms across a car fatality on a lonely canyon road and drags the body unceremoniously across the broken glass to get a better shot.

In a world where Taxi Driver exists Nightcrawler isn't very original, but it looks great on screen, LA at night a character in itself just like it was in Michael Mann's Collateral. It's just the lead character seems to have teleported in from a much funnier movie and just doesn't belong. Not that Gyllenhaal doesn't play him well, he does. He just should have played something very different.

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