Louis Bloom is a street-smart petty thief who stumbled into another way of earning more money. He would prowl the streets at night in the quest of some lurid or bloody crime or accident scene to film, with the main purpose of selling this footage to a news station for broadcast (also known as a "nightcrawler"). In order to one-up his competition, Bloom would not be too shy to do something underhanded in order to get the best scoops or shots. KWLA station news manager Nina Romina falls for Bloom's sensational video stylings and uses his graphic videos to push her low-rating station up in the network wars.
One day, being at the right place at the right time, Bloom was able to shoot video footage of a violent triple murder in a supposedly safe and affluent L.A. suburban neighborhood even before the police arrive on the scene. Aside from upping his price and his name, this event also pushes Bloom's brand of unethical media manipulation to more despicable levels.
This film is a total showcase for actor Jake Gyllenhaal to fully show off his commitment to method acting. His Louis Bloom is downright creepy and disgusting. His physical transformation is remarkable. Thin, gaunt and slouched, there was definitely no dashing and heroic "Prince of Persia" Jake here. From his work in "Zodiac", "Brokeback Mountain", "Prisoners" and "Enemy", we already know that Gyllenhaal is a serious film actor. He hits his peak transformative performance with this sick role. I will not be surprised if Gyllenhaal earns his second Oscar nomination with this disturbing portrayal upon which this whole film depended on.
The supporting cast does efficient work as well. Rene Russo plays Nina. It was very good to see the glamorous star from the 80s and 90s back in a substantial role worthy of her beauty and talent. Bill Paxton, another star from the 80s and 90s, has a smaller but marked role as Joe Loder, a veteran nightcrawler who was Bloom's main competitor. British indie film actor Riz Ahmed gets his Hollywood debut here playing Rick, the clueless guy Bloom takes on as an employee. He basically represented what all of us in the audience felt like watching the contemptible Bloom and his unmitigated greed so close up.
Writer Dan Gilroy does pretty good work for his first directorial job for a feature film, realizing his own vision for an original screenplay he himself wrote. He was able to effectively work in a sense of black comedic commentary on the current cutthoat state of network news. He was able to create much thrilling suspense in the action scenes in the second half of the film that kept us at the edge of our seats.
But this film is really all about Jake Gyllenhaal and his loathsome portrayal of Louie Bloom, which will be henceforth entrenched in the list of the most morally reprehensible characters in movie history. 8/10.