In “Nightcrawler,” Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a young man with talent, ambition and no morals whatsoever. Lou is the kind of person who wouldn’t help if you were bleeding to death in the street. Unfortunately, that is exactly how you’d be likely to meet him.
Mr. Guzmán concludes his succint and dead-on review:
“Nightcrawler” is the kind of movie that rarely hits multiplexes anymore, an edgy, pulpy thriller with a social conscience and a vicious satirical streak.
On the negative side, I had a little trouble with Lou’s characterization; that someone that sharp, that articulate and with that strong of an A-type personality would be starting out borderline destitute and in the dark. Normally that would only deepen the mystery of the man — a singularly-minded individual who has got to be the most selfish person you will ever see on film — but to me it felt a little off, a little short of ringing 100% true. A troubled past might explain his situation, but the film does not so much as hint at any sort of backstory. A hint — even an oblique one — would help. Think of Fargo: Jerry Lundegaard explains that he needs money because he’s in some sort of desperate position, without ever going into further detail. But that’s enough. In Nightcrawler, we are not given so much as that. For as much as a psycho as Lou may be, a psychological profile is absent.
Another weakness was the lack of a thematic style. Nightcrawler is all substance, and almost no style. Now I’d much rather have it that way than the other way around — too many movies throw a lot of flash on the screen in lieu of a strong story. But a unifying theme can add a lot. Sometimes an evocative musical score is all that’s needed — think of how important Tangerine Dream was to Miracle Mile. Or sometimes a certain visual style will do the trick (Gattaca comes to mind); other times just a thematic phrase like “bibbity boppity boo” from A Shock to the System (which shares much plot-wise with Nightcrawler) can offer a signature color to a movie.
As examples of Nightcrawler’s style or lack thereof, the film opens with a pedestrian credits sequence, and the end credits are accompanied by awful, useless music. The deficiencies are minor, and I point them out because they prevent a very strong movie from being one of the best of the year. And I am in no way saying that the production here is anything less than superlative. An absence of any background on Lou is quickly swept aside; as the movie settles in, it whisks you along on its ride — and that ride is driven by a masterfully conceived storyline. Nightcrawler is not light on plot.
Not in the least. Nightcrawler is terrific, high drama playing out on the streets of Los Angeles. Indeed, it may be added to the canon of great L.A. stories. Some critics have called it “overwrought” or heavy-handed; I disagree. I’ll take a good, juicy yarn like this any day of the week. 8/10