Nightcrawler, the amazing directorial debut for writer-director Dan Gilroy, could best be described as a ‘guilty pleasure,’ in that the film’s protagonist, Lou Bloom, is far from what you would call a sympathetic paragon of virtue. Quite the contrary, Bloom is a sleaze-bag who you will still (to a certain extent), end up rooting for.
Nightcrawler is more of a fable than a docudrama. I say this because in reality a character such as Bloom could not succeed in the real world of television news. His beating the cops to the punch at a triple homicide crime scene seems most unlikely but even more implausible is that the TV news show would ever broadcast his footage (c’mon folks, have you EVER seen such graphic footage appear on television news?). Let’s face it, the station would never subject itself to the liability of broadcasting such carnage anytime of the day, let alone the prime time evening news. Nonetheless, Mr. Gilroy is still making a great point: there’s a voyeur in almost every one of us and the powers that be in the media will capitalize on this, for any kind of buck.
Nightcrawler succeeds as a rollicking entertainment due to its deftly plotted script. After Bloom finds his calling as a freelance video journalist specialising in accidents and crime scenes in affluent areas, we immediately see there’s something a little different about this self-appointed entrepreneur: Bloom is much more aggressive than his rival Joe Loder, who has been shooting video footage for years.
In each scene where Bloom plies his trade, Gilroy keeps raising the stakes. As a neophyte, Bloom gets in a little closer than Loder does while shooting footage of a carjacking victim; and later, Bloom re-arranges the position of a car crash victim, in order to get a better shot. In his personal life, Bloom raises the stakes with Nina Romina (Rene Russo), the morning news director: he’ll give her exclusive footage only if she sleeps with him.
Bloom has a momentary setback when Loder beats him to the scene of a small plane crash but Bloom then takes Loder out of the game by sabotaging his van (resulting in serious injuries to Loder when the van crashes). The penultimate, heart-pounding event occurs when Bloom (along with Rick Carey, the down on his luck assistant, Bloom hires) come upon a home invasion, just as the assailants are leaving the area. Bloom gets footage of the criminals and also videotapes the victims inside the house, all dead from gunshot wounds.
Gilroy ups the stakes even higher when Bloom locates the criminals who were responsible for the murders during the home invasion. Instead of initially telling the police who they are, he follows them to a fast food store and then calls 911, intending to videotape the confrontation the police end up having with the bad guys at the store. When one of the bad guys escapes the shootout, Bloom and Carey follows him in a heart-pounding chase.
Bloom’s sleaziness is seen in high relief when he orders Rick to videotape the remaining criminal, who appears badly injured after his SUV crashes. Bloom insists the man is dead but throws caution to the wind, still ordering Rick to get in close for some good shots. Sure enough the bad guy is still alive and shoots Rick in the chest. As he lays dying, Bloom has no guilt feelings about videotaping his fallen employee, who he knows will bring in more income when he offers the footage to Romina.
As it turns out, the footage that Bloom has garnered, is a big sexual turn-on for the now-impressed Romina. Bloom’s desire to get ahead is in effect rewarded by society as he now purchases two new vans and hires a group of interns to assist him. While the police have no evidence to prove it, Bloom’s unethical behavior is ignored by his patrons, who reward him for his brazenness.
Nightcrawler is a most impressive debut for Mr. Gilroy, whose fairy tale/fable succeeds in its depiction of a charming rogue, who will stop at nothing, to succeed in the television news business. Nightcrawler manages to not only entertain greatly but in its satirical overview, it castigates a society much more interested in rewarding those who wish to get ahead at the expense of ethical behavior.