Social outcast and small time criminal, Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) has a chance encounter with Joe Loder, (Bill Paxton) a cameraman who films news stories and sells the video to local news outlets. Sensing he has found his calling, Lou buys a camera, hires an assistant, Rick, (Riz Ahmed) and pursues a career in recording newsworthy incidents in Los Angeles.
Starting small and losing to the higher-funded, Joe, Lou decides to try and take his filming where others wont go. Lou starts innocently enough by filming a medical emergency closer than Joe does. Using this footage, Lou sells the video to local news director Nina (Rene Russo) who sees value in the footage that Lou is able to offer. Wanting to be the best at his job, though, Lou begins to cross ethical boundaries by altering crime scenes to make the shots more dramatic and putting himself at the center of a crime in an effort to get video coverage first.
First time director Dan Gilroy, shooting from his own script, is able to pull the audience into Lou's off-kilter world. Los Angeles becomes its own character with Dan Gilroy being able to film his own script. Los Angeles hasn't been shot this beautifully since 2004's 'Collateral'.
While riding shotgun with Lou, though, we still do not get a complete understanding of who Lou truly is. Yes, he wants to be the best at his job, but why? In some ways, Lou comes off as just being a social outcast (as mentioned above) or could have a touch of Aspberger's Syndrome in the way he is so meticulous about the details of his job. Maybe the character is underwritten, or maybe we are just not meant to fully understand what goes on in Lou's head, but either way, Jake Gyllenhaal does the best he can with the performance. Sometimes quiet, sometimes frustrated, you see it all come through in a role where the character never explodes because he is so meticulous and has every angle thought out.
The rest of the cast is has to play second fiddle to Lou, and no one really stands out. Rene Russo never really gives off a performance of a director who does not like the position she is in, yet is willing to do what it takes for the ratings. Her character still gives off some light, when the performance should be more cold and cutoff. Though, if Nina and Lou were both cold and cutoff from the audience, this film would be even harder to like.
The film takes its time getting to its definite point. The first hour or so of the film is filled with set up and shot in an almost vignette way with no sign towards an actual plot. Eventually, Lou finds himself involved in a crime and has to find a way to resolve the issue along with being the first to report the status of the crime he is involved in. This is by far the strongest portion of the film as 'Nightcrawler' then begins to feel like the plot is moving forward and towards an exciting conclusion. Unfortunately, the final few minutes derail the good will that had been built up in the preceding forty or so minutes.
A beautifully shot film with a solid performance and sure-handed directing make 'Nightcrawler' a film worth checking out. If the film had gotten to its point earlier and wrapped up differently, this could have been a great film.