Review: “Nightcrawler”, or How Far Would You Go For The American Dream?

Pickup: Never before had I paid to see a movie more than once in a theater. No film had driven me back to buy a ticket, and I’m honestly a bit stingy at the theater. That changed with Nightcrawler (2014), written and directed by Dan Gilroy and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s a visually beautiful film that strikes a good balance between its funny, creepy, and monstrous moments. Gyllenhaal’s performance is outstanding and magnetic as psychopathic scavenger Louis Bloom. Beneath its story of media exploitation and crossing boundaries, there is a darkly ironic capitalist tale that makes this film fascinating.


Nightcrawler (2014)

Directed by: Dan Gilroy

Screenplay by: Dan Gilroy

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Kevin Rahm

Running time: 117 minutes

Rated: R

Budget: $8.5 million

Produced by: Bold Films

Distributed by: Open Road Films


Louis Bloom asks for a job in this early scene.

Louis Bloom asks for a job in this early scene.

While driving one particular night on a Los Angeles expressway , Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes across a car crash. He pulls over to witness the fiery wreck and the rescue efforts. A van pulls up. Two men jump out with cameras and begin shooting. Louis watches the men, unable to look away. He is enraptured.

Soon Louis gets his own camera and police scanner and begins nightcrawling — driving around at night to film footage of accidents, fires, and crime scenes for the morning’s local news.

nightcrawler louis camera comparison

Louis’ first night at nightcrawling. He eyes the more advanced camera of another stringer.

The film follows Louis as he learns the ropes of being a stringer. In his words, he’s a “very, very quick learner.” His first sale comes from KWLA channel 6 in LA. This is where he meets Nina (Rene Russo), overnight news director for the station.

Nina (Russo) in a scene with Louis.

Nina (Russo) in a scene with Louis.

As the story progresses, Louis shows little qualms with crossing professional boundaries. He violates the space of a carjacking victim (the footage of which was his first sale). He illegally enters a home that was hit by stray bullets, moving pictures on the refrigerator closer to the bullet holes for a more interesting image. These are only the beginning, and his efforts are successful.

Louis eventually upgrades to a higher quality camera, buys more equipment, hires an assistant, and purchases a slick Dodge Challenger SRT.

"Sell yourself." Richard's (Riz Ahmed) job interview.

“Sell yourself.” Rick’s (Riz Ahmed) job interview.

Who is Louis Bloom? He offers very little details about himself. He’s soft-spoken, bug-eyed, calm and collected. Gyllenhaal lost 20 pounds for the role – he wanted to appear hungry. He appears slightly gaunt, eyes a bit dark and sunken. Gyllenhaal said he wanted Louis to look like a coyote.

Coyotes are hunter-scavengers. They hunt small prey at night, and scavenge for what’s dead or left behind.

Louis is a thief and a scavenger through and through. When we first meet him, he is stealing chain-link fencing to sell for scrap. Throughout the movie, he steals things and ideas. His very profession is a scavenging act, picking through the misfortune of victims; through wreckage, smoke and blood, for a good piece of video to sell.

Louis films at a murder scene.

Louis films at a murder scene.

In one of the trailers for Nightcrawler, it asks “how far would you go for the American Dream?” For Louis, it seems he’ll stop at nothing.

He asks the owner of a scrap yard for a job early in the film. Louis describes himself as a hard worker, one who knows that people can’t rely on the kind of loyalty that employers offered past generations. He describes himself as being from the self-esteem movement or generation.

During an interview, Gyllenhaal says Louis is from a generation that’s looking for work, a success-at-any-cost generation in which ambition is admired.

Judging by how rehearsed Louis seems during interviews and his conversations with others, he’s been at this a long time. He is a millennial, an early thirty-something looking for the jobs and opportunities he was told about when he was growing up.

nightcrawler Louis close up first accident

Louis after his first encounter with nightcrawlers or stringers.

He looks for the American Dream. He works hard and builds his very own company from the bottom up.

Ultimately, Nightcrawler is a comment on capitalist tales and Horatio Alger myths. “My motto is if you want to win the lottery, you have to earn the money to buy the ticket.” Louis is an entrepreneurial psychopath that parrots platitudes and idioms about working hard, business plans, negotiations, and performance reviews.

When Louis hires Rick, he offers him an internship, not a paying position. “It’s not unusual for me to offer full time positions to interns,” he tells Rick, having been nightcrawling for perhaps just a few weeks. Later in the film, Louis promotes Rick from Assistant to Executive Vice President of the “company” (a company that solely consists of Louis), a job title that comes with little else.

In effect, Louis is the embodiment of corporate bureaucratic style.


– Ryan Pumroy



  1. Nightcrawler has already generated a fair amount of positive word-of-mouth. If it has legs at the box office, I’ll be excited to see what this means for the future of ‘micro’-budget filmmaking.

    Imagine the stories that could get off the ground and into the mainstream if this makes a splash. I’m already very optimistic because your reaction to the film isn’t common.


    1. Box Office Mojo reports that it’s earned about $11 million at the box office. At this pace — between budget, marketing, and costs of distribution — it might just break even. Although “Nightcrawler” really isn’t blockbuster material, so all things considered it looks like it will be successful in terms of money and critical acclaim.

      Interesting that this movie made it to theaters. A lot of small-budget films go either straight to video, digital, or on-demand — and thus don’t really receive the wide-spread attention films in theaters often do.


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