Nightcrawler: Hollywood Hidden Agendas, Hype And Crushing The Competition


Whistleblowing when it comes to media malice, even if fictionalized in movies like Nightcrawler, can’t be a bad thing. Even if it’s a little like say, treating pneumonia with an aspirin. Or, the police investigating themselves for wrongdoing. Let me explain.

Nightcrawler may have its heart, if not exactly it’s calculating head, in the right place as the thriller goes about denouncing television and specifically the evening news for exploiting public fears about crime in racist and class biased terms, in a quest for ratings and profits. And essentially going with stories intended to raise the paranoid panic level in suburbia, about inner city crime crossing the line – literally and figuratively, into their affluent turf.

Not that these sordid manufactured goals are instigated primarily from top down tactics in the film. Rather, it’s those from the bottom feeder classes themselves – in similar fashion to the have-not havoc of those broadcast stories in question – who provide and feed that unethical news cycle in a kind of hypocritical substrata plaguing Nightcrawler. And personified in that particular psychopathic crime scene paparazzi in question, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Not to mention Hollywood’s own looming personal subtextual motives here, in demonizing paparazzi in general.

Gyllenhaal is Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler, a chronically unemployed, alienated young man desperate for work during the ongoing economic downturn, in yet another entry into that growing genre of economic crisis cinema. Stealing and selling scrap metal when not getting into violent mugging, Bloom happens by chance upon a crime scene and the ‘vampire shift’ free lance LA cameramen who make a living selling those gory photos to television news outlets.

Eventually the deceptively genteel and soft-spoken Bloom ruthlessly eliminates the competition (Bill Paxton), and ends up manipulating and sexually dominating his equally ruthless boss at the station (Rene Russo). And becomes somewhat of a celebrity news gathering predator in his own right, by quite illegally ‘creating’ his own unsavory crime scenes and scenarios.

Screenwriter and first time director Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy) has crafted a relentlessly discomforting and disturbing, psychologically dense thriller. But more troubling, is the context. On that note, let’s revisit the self-policing metaphor. Are not the big and small screen the very same source of the racist and anti-workingclass fear mongering plaguing ethical values in this country? And in effect, the media assault on the inner city by this fictionalized TV station and this movie’s class based indictment of Bloom, one and the same. And their own offscreen hardly coincidental cultural collusion, Gilroy and his perp-arazzi protagonist, Gyllenhaal. The latter for his Hollywood rap sheet of not unrelated sordid crime thriller affairs like Zodiac, Prisoners and End Of Watch.

Then there’s the matter of Nightcrawler’s dubious division between victims and villains during these economic hard times. Are the bottom feeder designated media monsters in big city underbelly news cycles enriching the coffers of television stations really the impoverished at the other end of the food chain? And in the case of Nightcrawler, even ensnaring their own personal workforce ripe for exploitation? Well, perhaps those feeling most threatened by them think so, or driven by anxieties about ending up there themselves.

And let’s not forget that other possible competitive thorn in the side of Hollywood. Namely, the recent small screen surge known as the new golden age of television – a potential challenge both creatively and financially to an industry dubiously turning out movies like Nightcrawler. Along with all sorts of beyond troubling issues in the media not touched upon at all here. Including the one side to every story, brazenly corporate controlled media in collusion with CIA and government entities when it comes to the propaganda relentlessly fed to the public. Guilt by omission? Just some curious food for thought.

Watch the nightcrawler trailer:

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.