Ever since the debut of Breaking Bad we have seen numerous films and TV shows do the American Dream gone bad storyline. Just last year alone we had three rather high profile films with this theme in The Great Gatsby, Spring Breakers and The Wolf of Wall Street. So after seeing this theme so many times so recently it is kind of unfair to come across Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler is far from a bad film. It’s well directed and has characters that have some interesting moments of development, but it never fails to escape the “been there, done that” feeling. However, what really makes Nightcrawler unable to come out of the shadow of so many similar films is that it is missing a key ingredient that so many of the greats in its genre have: some sense of humanity in the character that it wants you to invest yourself in.
Nightcrawler follows Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man who tries to make money in whatever way he can. One night he comes across the obscure career of filming accidents and incidents in order to sell to local news stations, and with this discovery comes an addiction to be better at it than anyone else. While Louis Bloom is an interesting character in concept, he’s a very difficult character to latch onto. He never once shows any sort of decency and is rather one note. It’s really hard to invest in a character such as this and as such the film is really difficult to find any sort of connection to.
That’s a shame because Jake Gyllenhaal is doing great work with the character. He’s clearly transformed his body for the role and brings an amount of intensity to the role that he has never displayed before. Additionally, the film has a supporting cast that would have been very interesting in a film that wasn’t as pitch black as this was. Rene Russo as an ambitious news producer and Riz Amed as a homeless man desperate for work are highlights, and the film might have been better off if they had one of those two characters as its main character.
Despite failing to bring any humanity to the film with his script, Dan Gilroy does a tremendous job of shooting the film. With help from cinematographer Robert Elswit, the Los Angeles that is present in this film can be quite mysterious and beautiful. Gilroy also uses action sparingly to quite great effect. When there is action, though, Gilroy shows that he knows what he is doing, especially with one last act car chase.
Nightcrawler has a lot of great components, but it is a very difficult film to become invested in.