Jake Gyllenhall stars as Louis Bloom, an unsettlingly confident human encyclopaedia of the Internet living in contemporary Los Angeles. Desperate for work of any kind Lou stumbles upon the underground world of ‘Nightcrawling’ where freelance video crews descend into the night like vultures, in order to get grotesque footage of crime scenes and car crashes to package up and serve for breakfast across the morning news.
After stumbling upon this new way to make a quick buck, Lou gets his grubby hands on a camera and a police radio, quickly setting to work. With his disturbing bulging eyes and greasy man bun, sociopath Lou prowls the streets awkwardly like a jackal in search of blood and death in a world where the more horrific the death, the more money you get and the higher you fly up the TV news ladder. All he has to remember is “If It Bleeds, It Leads”.
Writer-Director Dan Gilroy’s sinister modern classic poses the question – just how far will one disturbed young man go in the chase of the promised American dream? Journalistic ethics are criticised and scrutinised and the ever-growing twisted relationship between media and consumer are examined in the hunt for gruesome stories and higher ratings. The film also portrays the morbid nature of voyeurism, like that moment when everyone slows down to get a glimpse of a fatal motorway crash. As we become evermore desensitised to the media, there’s a growing hunger and desperation to find something that’ll truly shock us.
After befriending Nina, a ratings-hungry local news producer (Rene Russo), Lou is mentored and encouraged to do whatever it takes to grab the perfect story, even if that means tampering with crime scenes and withholding information from the police. The onset chemistry between both Gyllenhall and Russo exemplifies the desperation and callous nature of both characters that are out to fulfil their own personal gain.
All sense of moral compass is out the window in this desperate chase for the macabre. The chilling nature of the film provides a ‘can’t bear to look away’ feeling as you are sucked into the morally ambiguous world of the dark underbelly of the American dream.