Nightcrawler-2014I kept thinking about capitalism while watching Nightcrawler. Specifically those individuals that become “titans” of industries and whose lives require mandatory biographies. Alright, I was thinking about Steve Jobs. And how he was a big asshole to everybody but is still revered rather than reviled today. That’s the power of success. I think Lou Bloom is cut from the same mold, albeit a criminal and sociopathic version, so the comparison may be a bit of a stretch.

Nightcrawler is an amoral rags-to-riches tale. Although I wonder about characterizing it as “amoral.” The veneer of power, success, and wealth seems to make ethics a fluid concept. Who cares how Lou Bloom got where he is when he’ll just be envied and idolized for what he’s become?

Lou is a petty thief and scoundrel. He strips copper wire and steals scrap metal from private property. He doesn’t make a lot of money. It’s hard to be a good negotiator when you’re selling stolen goods. Even professional thieves can only get fifty cents on the dollar. Lou settles for less but dreams of more. He incessantly recites lines from self-help business books and websites, but it’s hard to tell if Lou’s encyclopedic knowledge of mantras reflects his belief that hard work really does get you ahead or if he’s just recycling phrases to get to his next score. He eventually finds his calling on the scene of a fiery highway crash: taking freelance footage of crime scenes to sell to the highest television news bidder.

The film plays out like a business textbook case study (albeit the darkest possible version imaginable). Rookie entrepreneur starts out with small contracts and small rewards. The money he earns is invested back in the business to buy better equipment and an employee to be competitive with the larger players. A merger is offered, and declined. The rookie focuses on creating the best product, and one the competition cannot replicate. The competition is eliminated and a hostile partnership with a news broadcaster is solidified, guaranteeing a steady stream of income. The rookie businessman finally has something he’s never had in negotiations before: leverage. And an empire is born.

Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the best actors working in Hollywood today. His latest projects (Enemy, Prisoners, End of Watch) are all fantastic films, and simply having his name attached to a project these days is practically a guaranteed endorsement of its quality. Nightcrawler is no exception to this rule. His portrayal of Lou Bloom in the film is a bug-eyed, electrifying performance and his emaciated appearance is a direct reflection on the emptiness of his soul. This ain’t no heartwarming Gyllenhaal. He’s on full-on creep mode in this film.

What I like about Nightcrawler is its subversion of the American Dream and unapologetic cynicism. Instead of working hard and being rewarded for your hard work, the message is boundless ambition, moral elasticity, and bending the rules as far as possible.

Grade: A


2 Responses to Nightcrawler

  1. Good review and good observation. If you type “Sociopath in” into Google, the fourth automatic fill option is “the workplace.”

  2. Nostra says:

    Very good movie and Gyllenhaal really is in top form. Crazy thing is that in real life there are enough examples of people working this way and having success.

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