Filmmakers seem to have it in for the news media nowadays. First there was Gone Girl, and now there is Nightcrawler, written and directed by Dan Gilroy. (There is also Kill the Messenger, about the media’s trashing of Gary Webb, which I have yet to see.)

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a petty thief living in Los Angeles. One night he sees a freelance camera crew filming an accident. He gets the idea that he might be able to make a living this way. He steals an expensive bicycle, and he takes it to a pawn shop and trades it in for a camcorder and a police scanner. He struggles at first, but then he manages to get some graphic footage of a crime scene. He takes it to a local TV station. The station manager, Nina Romina (Rene Russo) buys the film, and she offers him advice on what things to look for. Louis then hires an assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed). Louis sees an enormous opportunity for himself when he arrives at a home invasion before the police do.

Louis Bloom speaks in a mixture of self-help cliches and technocratic jargon. At times he sounds almost as though he were giving a TED talk. (I have had bosses who have said some of the same things to me that Bloom says to people.) He is an embodiment of our society’s penchant for hype and boosterism. Yet underneath his glib facade is a man with no empathy for other people, who is willing to commit murder just to get ahead. The film implies that it is these very qualities that make it possible for Louis to be so successful at what he does.

Nina tells Louis that her station promotes the idea that urban crime is spreading into suburban areas. She tells him that she prefers him to cover crimes in wealthy neighborhoods in which the victims are white. She is open and honest about the station’s fearmongering.

Nightcrawler is a powerful indictment of the news media.

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