As the news becomes more violent and sensationalized, it makes sense that there are those ready to help with the exploitation for money and fame.  This is the world of Nightcrawler, a drama about one man who finds his calling filming and selling the worst Los Angeles has to offer.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is odd.  When he talks, his speech is filled with self-empowerment phrases, business theories, and lots of ambition.  But he's unemployed, living in a tiny apartment, and a thief who's willing to get violent to get what he wants.  When Lou sees Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) arrive at an accident to film it and sell it to the news, Lou is hooked.

Lou pawns his latest theft to get a camcorder and police scanner, and then he's off at his new job: speeding through the L.A. streets to be the first to videotape and sell accidents.  He starts selling his footage to Nina (Renee Russo), the morning news director for a local tv station who explains that they don't just want blood and death, but material that makes their upscale viewers nervous: urban violence in suburban areas.  Lou also hires Rick (Riz Ahmed), a homeless and desperate kid whose only qualifications seem to be his ability to use a cell phone to guide Lou through the streets.  (Lou strings Rick along with promises of a potential raise at a future performance review.)  And Lou's off on his nighttime quest for murders, crashes, and other material he can shoot and sell.

Nightcrawler is a very good, one-person-focused drama.  While it's hardly a revelation that news is more interested in ratings and demographics than truth or information, this film shows what can happen to the audience (and the news field) when sensationalism takes over.  As for Gyllenhaal, it's on him to carry the movie -- and he does so quite well.  He makes Lou Bloom an enigma, someone who may be a sociopath, or just arrogant and humble at once, or just disconnected with the rest of humanity.  The movie might have worked better if the morally-questionable final scenes were introduced a little earlier in the movie, but Nightcrawler is entertaining and disquieting.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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