Nightcrawler ★★★★

"A friend is a gift you give yourself." ~ Louis Bloom

I feel like the last person on the planet to have seen this film. But I'm glad I finally did. With only a few exceptions, I generally like films starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and the added interest of Rene Russo made it especially appealing, even though it was writer-director Dan Gilroy's feature debut and I knew nothing of him.

Here, Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a petty thief who stumbles upon a new vocation, "nightcrawling." This term refers to freelance video cameramen who race to crime scenes, traffic accidents, fires and other incidents of violence, typically after dark, in order to capture and sell footage to television news rooms.

Nina Romina (Russo) is a graveyard shift TV director who buys Bloom's first tape and soon becomes his (almost) exclusive client. He escalates his activities, hiring a sidekick named Nick (Riz Ahmed), after discovering he has to compete with 14-year veteran nightcrawler Joe Loder (Bill Paxton). Bloom gets lucky. And then he gets good, using a police scanner to locate scenes of domestic violence, DUI deaths, a toddler stabbing, nursing home abuse, carjackings, a botched SWAT raid, fiery deaths, and more.

At some point, Bloom arrives at a supposed home invasion, even before the police do, and before the culprits leave the scene. Rather than turn his video evidence over to the police, he sells it to Nina for an exorbitant fee that includes certain fringe benefits. Basically, he's one creepy misanthropic dude, who spouts self-help wisdom read on the Internet and cares for nobody but himself.

I wish I could say director Gilroy had a higher opinion of TV news teams and the ambulance chasers who feed them stories, but he's clearly on a mission to discredit the entire process of freelance video journalism. To him, local newscasters are the mercenaries of civil mayhem, and those who provide on-the-spot videos are the paparazzi of violence. Nonetheless, I believe this film deserved its Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and I am anxious to see how Gilroy follows up.

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