Brad Beatson is the subject of at least three songs on “1989.”
Nightcrawler isn’t a film with a hero or an antihero. It’s a two-hour vessel for the perils of desperation. There are no flashbacks or explanations; backstory is irrelevant. It’s a furious thrash that lets you laugh when writer/director Dan Gilroy offers scathing “business-speak” for Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Lou Bloom” to crush.
Bloom is desperate for power. He spends his days on the Internet sponging all the information he’ll use to squeeze his victims. Some of his cons are long, some short, and he makes sure he has the leverage to get what he wants. He meets his match in Russo’s “Nina Romina” shortly after becoming a “nightcrawler” (someone who takes footage of crime scenes to sell to local news stations). Nina is the News Director for Channel 6 News, the last place station in Los Angeles. She knows what the viewers want—If it bleeds, it leads—and unknowingly molds Bloom into her leader when they meet.
After witnessing veteran nightcrawler Joe Loder in action (Bill Paxton, whose predictably great speeding to scenes in vans), Lou decides he needs to hire an assistant. He tries to hire a meek, homeless man named Rick as an intern before agreeing to pay him a lowly $30 a night (Riz Ahmed, Four Lions). Then it’s rags-to-riches at news-cycle-speed for Bloom as he turns himself into Nina’s most valuable asset.
As Bloom relentlessly preys on his desperate pawns, Gilroy deploys a few characters to echo the audience’s thoughts. In pitch-perfect replication of his character Ted Chaough on Mad Men, Kevin Rahm’s “Frank Kruse” questions the journalistic integrity of Nina showing Lou’s footage. He rightfully scorns as they watch Lou’s camera being shoved into accident victims faces and capturing shots he could’ve only gotten by breaking and entering. Later, Michael Hyatt’s “Detective Fronteiri” grills Lou knowingly, convinced he’s spinning stories.
But more than our thoughts Gilroy is keenly aware of our impulses, which he uses to his advantage in the film’s triumphant climax.
After spending close to an hour-and-a-half with Louis Bloom you should want to get up and leave. But you can’t. It’s like watching a NASCAR race for a crash, an NFL game for a big hit or the coverage of the protests in Ferguson. Your mind says you’re hoping for nothing to go wrong but your gut wants something to happen.
Nightcrawler succeeds because it’s a breakneck thriller that’s beautifully shot and an absolute indictment of our current society. Lou Bloom flourishes because he can stress his target’s capitalistic needs, whether they’re Nina’s television ratings or Rick’s only chance at gainful employment. He consistently harps like someone whose tattooed the 48 Laws of Power on his brain and wins because of our bind to the dollar and desire to stay relevant.
Earlier this month, on November 2nd, someone took a photo of a teenager—unbeknownst to him—who was working at Target and it turned into a viral sensation. On November 4th he appeared on Ellen.
It’s that desire for recognition that fuels the desperation of Nightcrawler. Louis Bloom is clearly a sociopath but he wants to be known as great—in addition to money he wants fame. It’s relative to the countless number of media outlets who scramble to make a .gif of Drake with a lint roller or a meme of whatever Rihanna just wore to an event. If you’re slow you’re dead. You must be first, consistently. It’s not about what you have to do to get the recognition, the trust, the followers. It’s that you never stop doing what it takes, no matter who you burn in the process. Give the people what they want.
- Dan Gilroy is married to Rene Russo, brother to Tony (Writer of Michael Clayton, the Bourne movies) and John (Film Editor: Nightcrawler, Pacific Rim, Warrior), and son to Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Frank D. Gilroy (The Subject Was Roses).
- This is an excellent Dan Gilroy interview by Alex Pappademas: Grantland
- Of all the quotables, fear standing for “False Evidence Appearing Real” is my favorite.
Brad Beatson is the Art Director for Passion of the Weiss. He’s on Instagram.