He plays the gaunt and creepy Lou Bloom, a grade-one sociopath wired to the moon. Lou drives around the city with a police radio scanner and video camera. He is one of the city’s freelance “nightcrawlers”, eternally on the lookout for true-crime porn and car-wreck footage he can sell to the TV news, into whose bland corporate citadels he dreams of one day insinuating himself.
His story is like something Paul Schrader might have written, and there is a De Niro-like quality in Gyllenhaal’s presence – three parts Travis Bickle to one part Rupert Pupkin. With eerie fluency and dedication, this very contemporary parasite entrepreneur regurgitates the self-help lingo and business negotiation-speak he has learned from the web. He chivvies the bewildered and unemployed Rick into being his assistant, with a subtly excellent turn from Riz Ahmed. He also finds a ready emotional target in TV executive Nina (Rene Russo), who is driven yet vulnerable, in the time-honoured style of Faye Dunaway in Network or Holly Hunter in Broadcast News.
Gilroy maintains the dramatic tension and satirical fizz to the very last second and doggedly maintains the focus on Lou himself, with all his needling and posturing and bullying. There is something almost physically pleasurable in seeing an actor driving a role as confidently as this.
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