MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Open Road Films
Directed by Dan Gilroy. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo.
Here’s the thing about sin: it will always be around. The Bible has hardly just begun when the Lord takes time to explain this to Cain: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7 NRSV) But, alas, God’s advice goes unheeded and Cain murders Abel.
Murder and mayhem have been a part of popular culture ever since people could tell stories. One of the mantras that I heard from my newspaper-trained professors as a journalism major at Ohio State was that “if it bleeds, it leads.” This saying is evoked in Nightcrawler,a terrific new movie about shock news and our complicity in buying into its dark domain.
The lead character in Nightcrawler is Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a solitary and lonely man who is comfortable doing business in the darkness of Los Angeles. When the film begins Bloom is stealing scrap metal to sell to shady characters who won’t ask any questions. Lou is also a budding entrepreneur who is interested in moving up the ladder. When he pitches his services to the man who is currently buying his stuff, he is quickly rebuffed with the words: “I don’t hire thieves.”
One night Lou observes a violent car accident and sees a ragtag group of freelance cameramen taking videos. In short order he obtains a video camera and a police scanner from a pawnshop and begins his self-motivated career as a “nightcrawler”, shooting videos that he will sell to the highest bidder. He hires a homeless man (Riz Ahmed) for $30 a night as his navigator and partner. He then ingratiates his way into a local TV station that is last in the ratings. The nighttime news manager (Russo) is desperate for anything that might help her keep her job and Lou’s sensational videos could possibly be her salvation.
Nightcrawler eventually develops into an interesting thriller, but it is also a fascinating character study and a satirical black comedy. Jake Gyllenhaal gives the definitive wide-eyed performance as Lou Bloom and Dan Gilroy’s wonderful script gives him several inspired speeches in which he shares the motivational principles that have helped make him a success-driven man.
While 1976’s Network was a prophetic warning about the blurred lines between news and entertainment, Nightcrawler is a simple observation about the way things are. Now, that’s what I call bad news.
Three halos: A satirical thriller about humanity at its worst.
Three pitchforks: Swearing, scenes of violent accidents and death, deceit, greed, and other deadly sins.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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