Tonight I screened Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo.
Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is an aspiring breaking-news photographer in Los Angeles who covets a relationship with Nina (Russo), a news director at a local station that's suffering in the ratings.
Though he has no formal training, Bloom is confident that he's a quick study, and begins to apprentice professionals already on the job—without their permission. He soon becomes good enough to get some clips on the air and hires a homeless assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed), who is as desperate for employment as Bloom is for success.
The trouble is, Bloom doesn't seem to have a conscience when it comes to reporting. Ethics aren't what advances a photographer's career, so he focuses on the things that do: bloody crime scenes and accidents in suburbia. His methods cross the line of appropriate and his negotiating tactics, for more money and more recognition, are beyond reproach.
Scene after scene, Gylenhaal impresses us as the dangerous kind of narcissist that can't see beyond his own ego. His hollow smile coupled with his sharp, yet condescending lectures show a level of crazy that we haven't seen before in the actor. Perhaps what's so frightening is that he seems such a natural fit.
Russo matches his level of energy as the boss who will risk everything to keep her job, even if it means rewarding reprehensible behavior.
To add to the fun, the dialogue will make you angry at yourself for partially appreciating Bloom's wit, and oddly (sometimes) even rooting for him to get to the story first. After all, he's working hard for it.
Of course no matter of warped charisma or set of brass balls can excuse the evil that sneaks out when anyone puts humanity second to their own pursuits.
It's just a shame that our society is presently so twisted, none of this seems too far-fetched to be believable.