Living somewhere in the middle ground between Drive and American Psycho, the super skinny Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a hungry young man who haphazardly finds himself with a video-camera in the midst of the violent aftermath of a particularly nasty crime. Selling the footage on to cut-throat TV producer Nina (Rene Russo), he gets a taste for it, plus his particular personality traits – or lack thereof – means he might be just the perfect man for this job.
With Bloom being such an interesting character, it’s obvious why Gyllenhaal would jump at the chance to play someone so odious. However, we’re first introduced to him assaulting and mugging a security guard, so we initially think he might be a dead-eyed psychopath, but later his actions would have you believe he’s somewhere on the atypical autism scale, and the rest of the movie flops back and forth between the two.
First time director Dan (brother of Tony) Gilroy is obviously having a bit of fun with this, playing some heroic musical cues whenever Bloom gets away with something particularly horrendous, like moving the body of a car-crash victim because it makes for a better shot. It’s a bit too easy to tarnish all paparazzi as suffering from absolute moral repugnance, but it seems that Gilroy and Gyllenhaal are in on the joke too, so you kind of forgive it.
Once you get over that hump, then you can then sit back and enjoy one of the darkest comedies to come along in some time, with Gyllenhaal in absolute top form, his huge, unblinking eyes bugging out of his shrunken head. Russo also gets a great supporting character to chew on, while Bill Paxton as a rival cameraman and Riz Ahmed as Bloom’s barely-paid intern also get to stretch out in three dimensions with limited screen time.
Nailing the tone perfectly, and set against the almost permanently darkened LA skyline, Nightcrawler takes some warming to, but once you figure out the kind of story it’s trying to tell, you’ll find yourself laughing along with its rotten, deplorable outlook on life.