by Richard Gould
NIGHTCRAWLER stars Jake Gyllenhaal as low-level criminal Lou Bloom who strikes paydirt one evening capturing a few seconds of bleeds-it-leads video footage for the L.A. news market. A quick study of sleaze in all forms, he hones his new craft following the unwritten rules of the news biz and the city’s class divide–where nothing south of the 10 freeway is apt to draw a 310-viewer’s tear or clench a lapel. Even better, Lou has Weegee’s gift for capturing the most gruesome and newsworthy pix of the previous night, sometimes moving and posing car-tossed corpses to make them more friendly to the small screen, or forcing a police confrontation for live TV by using a well-timed 911 call. In a town where gossip and tragedy are echo-chambered to the level of myth and farce, he moves about with the ease of a natural spawn. But one mass murder threatens to drive up the career and personal stakes for him considerably, with nothing less than KWLA’s Nielsen ratings on the line. This sort of antihero has populated two centuries of highbrow lit, pulps and serials, but he’s seldom seen in Hollywood films, whose audiences don’t warm to two hours of unrelieved cynicism about the American dream. Rene Russo co-stars as the news director aiming to make a secure name for herself in the cutthroat world of local news.