(Dir. Dan Gilroy) (2014)
‘’Nightcrawling” is a term of art for paparazzi who nocturnally trawl the urban underbelly, shooting footage of mayhem for TV news (to be breathlessly shown as an exclusive, after the sanctimonious preliminaries warning “viewer discretion is advised”). Jake Gyllenhaal (see: Donnie Darko) co-produced and stars in this intriguing film as Lou Bloom, a cross between Travis Bickle, Rupert Pupkin and Carl Kolchak, surely selector’s choice for Creep/Worst Employer of the Year. To paraphrase Harold in The Boys in the Band, Lou doesn’t have charm; he has counter-charm.
With no back story as such, Lou is clearly a sociopath, and rather naive, considering. Yet he triumphs through being bright, following his business plan, discarding middle class morality and exploiting anyone and everyone. The film does not pretend to focus on crime and criminals other than through the narrow lens of popular culture, and in this limited optic it succeeds.
From small corruptions (moving fridge photos in a victim’s kitchen), Lou moves up the greasy pole through major obstructions and perversions of justice, his success made believable by Gyllenhaal’s terrific grinning, swivel-eyed-loon malefactor. Also note: Rene Russo, cast again as the ‘strong older woman’, impressive as the TV exec. who realises the glass ceiling needs constant hammering, even if it means spending time with Mr. Wrong; an unrecognizable Bill Paxton as a cynical competitor and Riz Ahmed, playing Lou’s sad-sap outworker wannabe.
It might strike one as easy to demonize the voyeurism of modern culture but it is there, it flourishes and in a land of free speech, debased mores, diminishing conventions and relativist ethics, who’s to stop it? As Lou Blooms rise and rise, that question becomes not only urgent but more important.