Nightcrawler

No, not Nightcrawler of the X-Men, but that's okay, because it was still a good movie and he wouldn't really have fit in anyway. The premise does seem a little strange -- 'Nightcrawler' here refers to a sort of independent contractor who chases police calls and takes video of accidents and crime scenes so they can sell the footage to the news stations -- but it's a real thing that people do in large cities. Teleportation would certainly be helpful, but super powers are not required, just an incredible amount of nerve.

Jake Gyllenhaal (Prisoners) as Louis Bloom has nerve to spare, but no job and no money. He's supporting himself through petty crime in Los Angeles, so he's also out at night a lot. When he sees an accident on the freeway he stops -- mostly just to gape, I think, since he isn't exactly a helpful sort, as we find out later -- and meets Bill Paxton (Edge of Tomorrow) as Joe Loder, a local Nightcrawler who has an impressive amount of professional looking equipment, even though when Lou asks him how much the job pays he replies, "Not nearly enough." I'm sure he's right, since I know you couldn't pay me enough to point a camera at dying people, but Lou thinks he's found the perfect job for his skill set.

Granted, all he seems to be good at is issuing threats with a smile and looking wide-eyed and confused when challenged by authority, but those are apparently very useful things in the Nightcrawler world. Also, he once remarks that he's been told he's tenacious, which is a bit like saying that the Pope is religious, so I'm sure that helps, too. Nina, the late-night news director for KWLA (Rene Russo from the Thor franchise), says that he has a good eye, but I think she just means that he has a knack for finding the bloodiest, most awful scenes and getting lots of really gruesome close-ups. But they love that at KWLA, because they're a Fox network. Okay, they never actually say which network they're with and it isn't a real channel out there, but it might as well be Fox, since Nina never lets the truth get in the way of a good story.

You can sense how things are going to go wrong. However suited for the job he is otherwise, Lou can't stand it when not everything goes exactly the way he wants it to go, and blackmail and sabotage are all in a night's work for him. So you know it's only a matter of time before the line between observer and participant gets hopelessly blurred. Rick (Riz Ahmed), the desperately broke kid that Lou hires to help him out, doesn't really see how bad things are getting until it's too late, though on the other hand he's right on top of things when he tells Lou that he really needs to learn to talk to people like they're human beings. Except you probably need to be a human being yourself to manage that, and I'm not convinced Lou qualifies.

But it was a great performance -- it can be hard to have a main character who's completely strange and unlikable, but it works out beautifully here. I'll go with four and a half out of five. Shockingly, they managed to use a lot of shaky-cam-style footage without everyone losing all track of what's going on and/or causing rampant motion sickness, so Paul Greengrass should probably take a few lessons from this film. It's also just as much a train wreck as Unstoppable, and it's equally hard to look away.

Image: 
Lou realizes that he's forgotten to buy toothpaste.

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