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Monday, October 19, 2015

HubrisWeen 3, Day 14: Nightcrawler (2014)

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy

Jake Gyllenhall:  Louis Bloom
Rene Russo:  Nina Romina
Riz Ahmed:  Rick
Bill Paxton:  Joe Loder

There's something missing from Louis Bloom's soul. The film never explains how it happened--if he was born a monster or turned into one, but there's definitely something off about him. Every time he tries to communicate with another human being he speaks in cliched gibberish that sounds like he cribbed it from business-themed self improvement manuals. He doesn't seem to blink. He's gaunt to the point where he looks malnourished. And he has absolutely no compunction about hurting someone if it means that he gets something that he wants. There's nearly four million people living in Los Angeles, and someone who doesn't look like an obvious monster can hide for quite some time in a huge metropolis (especially one spread out over such a large area--in a small town, everyone would spread the word about how the Bloom kid isn't right, which may well be one reason that he moved to such a gigantic metropolis). It's probably important that the first image on the screen during the film is a blank billboard--there's nothing there. Just like there's nothing there at Lou's core. There's just a surface that can present itself as human but the controlling intelligence is as compassionate and empathetic as a spider.

The movie starts with a look at Los Angeles by night (which is different from Los Angeles after dark, in that nobody is wearing lingerie in the opening scenes). At first the city looks to be completely deserted, but soon enough a few random people are doing their jobs (I hope the road crews are getting overtime at 3 in the morning) and a car or two moves through the shot. But mostly it's a vast empty dark wasteland with the occasional pool of illumination from a street light or building. Louis Bloom is busy clipping through a chain-link fence with bolt cutters when a security guard drives up to ask what he's doing. He tries to ingratiate himself to the guard (which goes poorly) and then beats the guy (at least unconscious but possibly to death), helping himself to the man's watch and a big section of chain-link fence, the latter of which winds up in the back of his piece-of-shit hatchback.

At a scrap yard, Louis sells various metal things he's stolen and scavenged, trying to negotiate a better price for everything with the shop foreman. He's seemingly incapable of noticing the total contempt that man has for him, and tries to pitch himself for a job while looking down at the guy (and check out how the lighting in this scene makes Jake Gyllenhall's face look like a skull--he eyes look like the sockets are two inches deep). He enumerates his virtues and makes as good as case for himself as he can. The foreman turns him down with a single syllable; when Bloom lowers his sights and asks about an unpaid internship the man says he's not hiring a thief to work in his shop. Bloom leaves without another word and drives off. His face is completely devoid of emotion when he's not around anyone--not even anger or sadness at not landing a position.

A chance encounter with someone else's disaster gives Bloom a new idea. He stops by a crashed and burning car (and without anything showing on his face, I'm not sure if he was going to help or just wanted to see someone terrified of dying). A giant van roars up and two men with video cameras run out to get footage of the wreck (including a shot inside the burning vehicle). The police refer to one of the cameramen by name, which leads Lou to realize that this is a commonplace thing--not just the accidents in the endless freeways of the Los Angeles road system, but the idea that people can film the aftereffects of tragedy and make enough money to buy a van with an editing bay and broadcast antenna. Certainly that's a better trade than stealing security fences for a hundred dollars a pop. Bloom asks one of the men what the job pays and exactly what they're filming for; it turns out people with video cameras can make a relatively good living cruising around at night and getting tape of bad things happening in the city; morning news shows like to keep their suburban viewers frightened and titillated by the chaos, death and destruction that happened overnight. Although Loder, the boss of the two-man crew, refers to his vocation as "a flaming asshole of a job", Bloom asks if he's hiring. He gets shot down (twice in a single night!) and when a lucrative-sounding police call comes in over the scanner in the van Loder calls his other cameraman over and peels out in search of another profitable instance of human suffering.

And an idea is planted. Bloom watches the early morning news in his tiny apartment (sitting in the darkness as the sun starts to come up), flipping through channels with happy chortling newsreaders until he finds the story he's looking for--darkness, fire, pain and fear. All of those things made Joe Loder and his subordinate a lot of money, and Bloom is pretty sure he's got what it takes to work in that field. He swipes a fancy-looking racing bicycle and takes it to a pawnshop where his patter about thirty-seven microshifting gears and claims of winning the Tour de Mexico on that bike cut no ice with the owner and cash disbursement manager. Instead of the couple thousand dollars he wants, Lou negotiates for a camcorder and police scanner.

Bloom goes out to get footage of various crimes he's heard about, but doesn't know the unwritten rules of the freelance cameraman game. The first two scenes have police threaten him with arrest and he leaves in shame (and without a single frame of usable video), but the third one's the charm. He winds up getting too close and getting another cameraman sent away along with himself, but he's got tape of a bloody accident victim being loaded on a stretcher. Bloom follows the other cameraman as the guy describes what he's got footage of and cuts a deal (for $200 less than he wanted) for the tape that he's got of a carjacking victim bleeding out in the street as paramedics try to treat him. There's no humanity at home in Lou Bloom's skull but he's certainly got a mind for details. He soaks in everything he can while observing the other stringer at work.

Now that he's got something on tape that might be worth some money, Bloom goes to a local TV station (where, significantly, the lights go out in a room he enters) and finds out where to go with his footage. The news director, Nina Romina, is busy telling an editor how to put together a brief clip for maximum impact (and editing the picture and sound so that they're not really showing whatever happened on the clip, but rather assembling different fragments of the picture and soundtrack in order to make the snippet of footage as emotionally manipulative as possible). He gets sent away from the editing booth but Nina asks him what he's got--the first interest anyone's shown in his new career path. His footage is so gory that the editor lets out an involuntary "Oh, fuck!" when he sees it; remember, this is someone who's used to putting together anything he thinks an audience will pay attention to for fifteen seconds at a time so he's seen some things.

Nina decides to use Lou's footage as the lead-in and to refer to the crime repeatedly through the half-hour broadcast, counting on their audience's nauseated fascination with carjackings to get them mentioned in the water-cooler discussions of anyone unlucky enough to see the clip while having breakfast. Lou's still got some work to do on the negotiating front; he wants to sell the footage for a thousand dollars and Nina cuts his down to a fourth of that even after Bloom knows she wants to lead the broadcast with it. But it's a start, and Nina does want more from Bloom and gives him tips about what kind of equipment he'll need in order to produce footage that's up to broadcast standard.

Nina explains her philosophy of news coverage while telling Bloom the kinds of footage that is especially valuable for the morning broadcast:  Crime sells, but it has to be the right kind of crime. Black lives don't matter when the newsroom is trying to titillate their suburban audience; instead, Bloom should be on the lookout for "urban" crime that takes place in or near the suburbs. Rich white victims getting hurt by poor (preferably minority) criminals is the best kind of crime for her purposes; accidents (hopefully with something on fire) are also worthwhile. Lou nods, taking mental notes, and repeats that they're looking for bloody footage. Nina gives her philosophy:  "Think of our newscast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut". And that's something Lou has no problem doing.

Lou watches the KWLA news that morning to get a look at the clip he sold, his face blank as he watches the reporter load his description of the crime with plenty of the right adjectives, then tell the viewers they might not want to see what's coming next (which, of course, guarantees plenty of people looking up from their smartphones or scrambled eggs to see what's so horrible). Bloom imports the report to his laptop and names the clip CARJACKING CRIME WAVE after the caption that KWLA used at the bottom of the screen.

Now that he's found something safer and more lucrative than stealing bulk metal to sell to people that despise him, Lou decides to get good at his job. The first stop is to get a list of all the radio codes that the Los Angeles Police Department use to describe what's going on; no point wasting time chasing after a Code 7 when that turns out to be a signal that the officer is breaking for lunch. But there's only so much one person can do by himself while working as a stringer, so Lou decides that he needs backup. The person who responds to his ad and meets him at a diner is Rick, played by Riz Ahmed in a performance that's miles away from his work as the ringleader in Four Lions. Lou doesn't explain what he wants Rick to do, but instead takes him through an interview asking questions obviously gleaned from a management guide that doesn't apply to this situation. Rick probably thinks he bombed the interview, but the only thing that Lou really needs is someone that will follow orders and has a smartphone with a GPS program on it. When Lou finds out that Rick is currently homeless it seems like a perfect match--only someone desperate and broke would get into a car with an obvious weirdo and go get videotape of car crashes and home invasions. Lou's evil enough to tell Rick that it's an internship, not a paid position (after hiring him) but agrees to a token $30 cash per night's work.

Hours of waiting around ensue; Rick turns out to be a pretty quick study with the police codes and Lou sits in his car patiently waiting for something to come up on the scanner that he can use; once night falls there's a fire that sounds promising. Lou orders his assistant to put his seat belt on as he speeds off to the fire; with Rick navigating Lou can concentrate on driving fast enough to terrify his intern. Rick is too scared to navigate properly his first time out of the box, and by the time Lou gets to the fire there's nothing going on worth taping. Joe Loder is there, though, and takes time out of his busy day to tell Lou that he missed everything and his camera sucks.

The second call that Lou responds to works out better for him--it's  a domestic shooting that he gets to after the fact as well, and another stringer tells him (as a colleague, though, and politely) that the situation's already wrapped up. Lou seizes the initiative and sneaks into the house, getting shots of the bullet holes in the refrigerator (and moving family photos on the fridge next to them to make a more emotionally appealing shot). Nina is thrilled to have something she can really use as a lead-in (Lou doesn't have any legit footage of the couple who lived next door to the house where the shooting occurred, but has great shots inside their house and of them being interviewed by the police with bullet holes in the window between them and the camera). Frank the producer is appalled, but Nina overrules him and the footage is used.

While talking with Lou, Nina gets him to open up a little bit about himself (he's self-taught, taking online courses rather than formal education). He also says his mission statement--that why someone does something is just as important as what they're doing. Which sounds reasonable until you remember that he's a thief who got a career bump by breaking into houses and manipulating video footage so suburbanite Angelenos can experience a vicarious thrill watching the aftermath of other peoples' suffering. It's even worse when Lou mentions an online course that recommended telling people to do what they love, and he says that "television news" might be something he genuinely loves. He even seems to get genuinely choked up when he looks at the backdrop behind the anchor desk and says "On TV, it looks so real". Nina pays him off and goes to do her job and Lou sits down at the desk--and this shot shows him in focus on the camera monitor but blurry in the real frame. Looking at his scrawny, ghoulish visage at the desk it's pretty obvious that if Lou is going to get a job in TV news it'll have to be behind the scenes.

And it does appear that Lou's got genuine talent for what he's doing--his digital scrapbook fills up with reports that used his footage (with horrifying captions like TODDLER STABBED,  HEADLESS BOY IN CARSON and DRUNK MOM KILLS BIKER). One gets the feeling that all the other stringers treat the footage as something they use to get paid; I don't think Joe Loder has a collection of everything he's recorded that wound up on the news. The screen fills with images of fire, blood, flashing emergency lights and pain. And at the end of the montage, Lou is driving a shiny brand-new cherry red Dodge Challenger with a bank of police scanners and navigation aids on the dashboard. He also tells Rick that if he spills gas on the car while filling it up one more time, he's fired.

On his next call, Lou tries to get an interview with a man who called in the wreck (and who is talking to a 911 operator while Bloom sticks the camera in his face asking questions--showing once again his total disregard for humanity, which is an asset in his line of work). Since he got to the wreck before anyone else and the man on the cell phone is busy trying to give details to the emergency operator, Lou has plenty of time to pick his shots. But when the angle's no good he drags the dead body to a spot where it'll look better on television and looks at the shot with an almost religious awe when he sees what he's done through his viewfinder. He's upgraded his equiipment considerably, by the way, and now has a professional-looking camera with a directional mike, just like Nina recommended. But even more satisfying than the warm glow of a job well done and a check waiting for him at the station? Seeing Joe Loder show up too late and give up in immediate frustration when he sees that Lou scooped him.

And it turns out to be a hell of a shot; Nina tells Lou that they're leading the broadcast with his footage, and that makes three times this week that Bloom has brought them something they can use. Lou tells the news director that he's been studying cinematography and framing so that his footage is more appealing to the eye; he's taking his job incredibly seriously, it appears. He also switches gears after talking about his framing technique to ask Nina out to dinner. When she tells Lou that she doesn't date coworkers he counters that she's a client of his, not a coworker. She says she doesn't want to jeopardize that working relationship and Lou responds by saying that telling him "no" could do that. They leave things there as the anchor starts talking about a car crash that killed one person and badly injured another.

Out on the street the next day, Lou gets buttonholed by Joe Loder (who saw his car and decided to wait till Lou left the station to find him and talk to him. Loder starts with a friendly tip about uploading footage to an FTP site rather than physically taking it to the station and then shifts gears to offer Lou a job as a crew chief in his stringer company, Mayhem Video. It actually sounds like a good deal in several ways but Lou hasn't forgotten that he got mocked once, months ago, by Loder at that one scene. He shuts Loder down politely at first, but gets rude once Loder presses the issue, and leaves with bad blood between the two of them.

The next we see of Lou he's having dinner at the Mexican place he mentioned to Nina, complimenting her on her looks. He's a deeply creepy person, and lists things he likes about Nina's appearance (and smell) like they're entries on a ledger. Lou also reveals that he watches the reports that used his footage repeatedly, and that his ambition is to own a station rather than just shoot footage that he sells to one news desk. Then he tells Nina what he's looking for in a relationship (which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is her). She tries to shut him down politely, since he's a creep and she doesn't like him, which leads Lou to negotiate as mercilessly as he did with Rick at the job interview. By the time he's done Nina knows that Lou knows exactly how valuable he is to KWLA thanks to his willingness to capture the worst that Los Angeles has to offer on a nightly basis. As if that wasn't enough, it turns out that Lou timed his dinner date so he could remind Nina of an upcoming sweeps period, where  the station's ratings will be used to determine what they can charge for ads over the next year.

Nina isn't prepared for that barrage from the weirdo who shoots car crash footage for the morning news cast, and asks Lou what he wants. He wants to have a romantic relationship with Nina (he says "I want that like you want to keep your job and health insurance", which shows his unerring eye for human weakness). When she says she doesn't need help from this ghoul to keep her job, Lou tells her things she already knows--like the fact that she's got the least desirable management job in the lowest-rated station in the Los Angeles broadcast area. Then Lou points out that Nina hasn't left the table even though what he's suggesting is unconscionable. When she counters with more money and a starter position at KWLA Lou hits her with even more information--he's familiar with her resume and knows that she's been let go from every station she's worked at after two years, and her two-year anniversary at KWLA is coming up. Either she gets ratings or she gets bounced to somewhere like Tulsa.

We don't see Nina's abject humiliation after Lou plays super-hardball against her, but the next we see him he's berating Rick for not reading a traffic memo warning about construction on one of the freeways while speeding to another call (and one way that the movie shows Lou's mindset is that we never see him and Nina together at his place or hers; he has his "relationship" and that's important to him, but we never see exactly what he wants her to do when she's under his control). While he's driving to a hit-and-run accident he overhears a call for an air ambulance for another accident that's more than twenty miles away and demands that Rick figure out a way to get him there. When they do arrive it turns out that the show's over--a light plane crashed and killed five people, setting the scrub on fire around it, but all Lou is likely to get is a brief shot of some firemen rolling up hoses and leaving. And Joe Loder's there, of course, laughing at how he has exclusive film of it and hit the jackpot. Lou walks off, furious (although he barely shows it by his facial expression) and goes back to KWLA to get yelled at by Nina for having useless footage just in time for sweeps week.

The next morning, as the report of the crashed plane unspools on Channel 2, Lou looks at himself in the medicine-cabinet mirror and screams with rage, shattering the mirror and stomping off to do something about his situation. That turns out to be tampering with the brakes on the Mayhem Video van (one assumes he found where Joe Loder parks his rig and looked up the relevant details online). He must have been keeping an ear cocked for van crashes all night, because he drives like a bat out of hell to get to the Mayhem Video wreck. Rick even asks why they're driving so fast to get there, considering the neighborhood it's in (demographics are hugely important when it comes to this business) but recognizes the distinctive blue rig as soon as Lou pulls up to the scene.

Rick is horrified and concerned, and even tells Lou not to film Loder being pulled from the wreck because he's one of them. "Not anymore," is the case, at least according to Lou, and he gets the shot he was looking for. The last we see of Joe Loder he's slowly spitting up blood, looking first at the camera lens as he becomes part of the news and then down to Lou's emotionless face. You'd expect triumph or satisfaction there, but there's nothing recognizably human going on at all. His expression is as blank as a mannequin.

While out patrolling for more carnage, the police dispatcher reports an alarm going of in a rich neighborhood; Lou manages to beat the police response time because he happens to be very close to the mansion in question. Whatever footage he thought he was going to be getting, Lou almost certainly didn't expect the criminals inside the mansion to still be there, and he actually displays a little fear when he hears gunshots and hides so they can't see him when they leave the crime scene (though he does hide in a place that lets him get good footage of their escape). Rick, in the car, sees the van peel out and go the other way. And back at the house, Lou wanders through, getting shots of gunshot victims and bloody footprints in a wordless sequence that culminates in him getting footage of an empty crib while a music box tinkles away. Knowing that time is a factor, Lou gets some pickup shots of other things in the house and runs away towards the car while berating Rick for insufficient dedication to the growth path for their corporate investment.

Once they're far enough away from the murder scene to be out of police notice, Lou stops the car and captures the footage to his laptop, gasping as he realizes how much death and horror he's captured (because he knows how much money it'll be worth). At the station, Nina berates Lou for not having anything worthwhile and hands over the hard drive with the ripped footage of the murder site that nobody else in town even knows about. She asks why he didn't call it in and he responds--honestly and flatly--that if she needs the footage more he bargains from a better vantage point.

In the editing bay, Frank the manager is appalled and Nina can't keep from grinning while they view the footage. Nina asks the staff lawyer how much they can legally get away with showing, while Frank tries to be the voice of reason and ethics. The lawyer says that pixellating the murder victims' faces and not giving the exact address of the homicides will give them enough of a legal fig leaf to show the footage, so it's all systems go to show the slaughter. After negotiating typically brutally, Lou winds up with $15,000 for a few minutes of videotape, setting his own rates for footage in the future and repeated on-air mentions of his company as a legitimate news source. He also gets to meet the on-air talent and tells Nina that the next time they're alone with each other at her place, she'd better do all the things he wants her to do (in a tone of barely contained fury). For a movie full of blood, pain, mayhem and fear that might well be the worst thing I've witnessed yet.

Lou appears to notice that he's let his control slip and offers free footage of the van crash that Joe Loder was just hauled out of as a negotiating tactic, and one jump cut later Nina is introducing Lou to the morning anchor team. He turns on the charm to the extent that he is able, and watches blankly as the segment using his footage leads the broadcast. Frank the voice of reason and conscience is there too, his face looking sickly in the light of the control console. The anchors repeat that it's exclusive footage from "Video Production News", the generic-sounding company Lou has come up with. Almost no information about what actually happened gets out during the segment, but both anchors take time to tell their audience to worry about rich people getting murdered in their home. Bloom manages a smile as the anchors say that he got there before the police.

The footage is an immediate sensation, with the police wanting to have a little chat with whoever shot that tape. And the station runs with it for the length of the day. The story winds up getting covered on other stations as well, of course, since it's full of blood and rich people and devastation. I imagine HORROR HOUSE is getting a place of pride in Lou's digital scrapbook. While he's watching the news a pair of police detectives politely knock on his door and then invite themselves inside for a chat about him entering an active crime scene to videotape the bodies. He also denies having seen the perpetrators well enough to describe them or their vehicle and hands over a copy of his footage to the detectives (who ask for it, but who very carefully dance around the issue of whether they need a warrant to compel Lou to give it to them; it's a moot point because he says he made a copy beforehand and expected someone to want to look at it). That, of course, means that he's able to give up the edited version that doesn't have the faces and license plate that he captured,  and Lou can look for the perpetrators himself via internet searches (at which he has already demonstrated considerable skill).

Armed with that information he sets out into the night to track down the perpetrators (he knows that he found a car at best, not two people, when he got hits on his searches). Rick points out that he needs to call the police if he has valid leads that could help with the case and Lou says he will when the time is right. He also tells Rick that there's a critical moment coming that could make the company enough money to leap forward into a new paradigm and rise to the next level of success. He also gives Rick an impromptu performance review while they're parked by the side of the road, promoting the younger man to Executive Vice-President on the spot. Rick wants to know how much more money he'll be making, and asks for $75 a night instead of $30. Lou agrees on the spot and tells Rick after the fact that he could have gotten a lot more.

They find the criminals' vehicle and Lou mentions a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in this case. But just because they've found a car doesn't mean they have the men who robbed and killed the three people in that mansion, so Lou's plan is to wait for the killers to come out and follow them somewhere that they can be filmed getting arrested. Someplace more cinematic, that'll look good on television. Rick can't quite believe what he's hearing, and says he wants a lot more money if that's going to be the plan. Lou threatens Rick's job, and Rick counters with a blackmail scheme; he wants half of whatever Video Production News makes that night to guarantee his silence. Lou agrees to this and Rick tells his boss that he has to start treating people more like human beings and less like obstacles and irritations. It looks like he might have crossed a line when he tells Lou that he doesn't understand people.

Hours later, the perp gets into his massive SUV and drives away. Lou pursues in the VPN car and watches as the first suspect picks up his partner and goes to fill up the tank on his behemoth suburban assault vehicle, then stop by an all night Chinese restaurant to fill their own tanks. Louis calls the police to report the criminals' location and descriptions, giving his real name to the dispatch officer and reporting that he thinks one of the two men has a gun. He hangs up and turns on the police scanner so he knows when to expect the new arrivals. Rick is appalled that the half-dozen people in the restaurant are in danger thanks to Lou's plan; he knows that if someone starts shooting in there innocent bystanders could catch a bullet. Which Lou is fine with, although he was probably hoping for someplace a little more upscale for a gunfight that he could capture live on video.

Rick gets ordered to get coverage from another angle outside the restaurant, but flatly refuses to risk his neck outside with a camera if things go badly. Lou, by way of explaining why Rick is going to do exactly what he is ordered to do, tells his Executive Vice-President that his problem is not so much that he doesn't understand people as it is that he doesn't like them. At all. He then offers to beat the shit out of Rick if he won't go along with the plan, saying that the other man would definitely recognize in hindsight when he made the mistake. Rick goes out to get the footage, since he has no other options. Lou uses his car window to stabilize his shot and waits for the police to arrive.

When they get there, the police are framed in the viewfinders of Lou and Rick's cameras rather than shown in the normal cinema frame. So are the two criminals, who pull guns and hide them under the table when they see the law enforcement presence in the restaurant. Rick looks like he's going to throw up as he films the second pair of cops going inside; the criminals shoot at the cops, hitting one, and customers fall in the crossfire during the gunfight. The gunfight is treated the exact opposite of firearm violence that movies normally get--it's filmed from a distance, over quickly, and there are no slow-motion insert shots of shell casings popping out of Glocks or bodies tumbling balletically to the ground. One criminal is down at the scene and the other drives away, with the police and then Lou and Rick in hot pursuit (Lou driving and Rick pointing a camera at the cop cars). One police car is hit by another vehicle crossing an intersection against the red light and Rick gets fantastic shots of the criminal ramming the cop car with his Escalade, knocking it over in a shower of sparks and then flipping the SUV after smashing into a parked van.

Lou orders Rick out to get a shot of the dead gunman inside the SUV, telling him that the man is dead (and also to use the zoom for closeups and keep his hands steady). The criminal shoots Rick several times, being less inactive than promised and the poor doomed bastard drops to the pavement without a word. Lou gets that on camera perfectly, as well as the sequence where the criminal limps off away from the crash and gets shot more than half a dozen times by newly arrived police. Lou turns his camera off to catch Rick on the ground, telling the man that untrustworthy employees aren't worth risking the future of Video Production News.

At the station, Lou walks in and is delighted to be recognized by the anchors. In the editing bay, he and Nina are framed like a couple at a movie theater watching the show as the criminal's body jitters and drops under the police gunfire. Nina dismisses the editor and turns to Lou in a softly-lit shot that belongs in a romantic comedy, not a horror movie about a sociopath who gets people killed because he can make money off of film of their deaths. They look like they're about to kiss and Nina actually thanks Lou for bringing her the footage, letting him set the price for the video. The detectives who got the earlier footage from Video Production News are in the studio demanding all the footage from Lou and Rick's cameras, but Nina says she paid for it and it's KWLA property now. She gets another chance to do the right thing when Frank the news editor says he's got a tip that the triple murder at the mansion was actually a drug crime (the people living there had fifty pounds of cocaine in their crawlspace, which explains the armed gang killing everyone there). Nina says to run that story at noon, when nobody with a job will be watching their network, and credits Lou as an inspiration to do more at work. She has been utterly corrupted by her exposure to Bloom, it would appear.

The police interrogate Lou about his culpability (he notices the security camera placement in the room and deduces that it's got to be a wide-angle shot). He feeds the detective a cock-and-bull story about the two criminals showing up outside his apartment with them following him to the restaurant. He presents his story--which doesn't have too many holes in it, and Rick certainly can't contradict him--and the detective lays out a much more accurate series of events, but Lou doesn't crack under pressure and walks out of the police station a free man (and wearing the watch he got from the security guard he beat down at the start of the film, which suggests that he will be going completely unpunished for his crimes here as well).

The last we see of Lou Bloom, he's telling three interns in matching VPN polo shirts that they're going to be a great addition to the Video Production News team, and that he hopes they realize he won't be asking them to do anything he wouldn't do himself to get the footage they can use. They get into their vans and drive off into the Los Angeles night, ready to seek out death and pain so they can get paid.

Okay, I can hear you saying, that's all a sickening indictment of the American mass media appetite for shock rather than informative news as well as a portrait of a sociopath who learns to rig the system to get what he wants at the cost of several lives, yeah, but what's it doing as a HubrisWeen review? Well, let me blow your mind, then. This is courtesy of Dave Thomas, incidentally, who ran the much-missed kung fu review site "Steamed Prawn Buns" until he decided not to do that any more.

Nightcrawler is a non-supernatural vampire movie. Louis Bloom goes out at night to feed on blood. He gains strength and influence every time he comes into contact with it, and eventually moves from being a passive observer to bringing events about that will allow him to feed--going from scavenger to predator. Everyone in his path winds up either under his thrall, dead, or both. He's associated with the color red in several ways--the new car he buys has a red paint job and red LCD lights inside on his police scanners. The "data uploading" progress bar on his laptop is also bright red (I've only seen navy blue, grey, and green ones when my computer is telling me stuff is going on), and the narrow band of grey that fills with red recalls a syringe withdrawing blood every time it's on the screen. He gets a Renfield when Rick joins his team, and alternately flatters and abuses him as well as making promises to turn his servant into someone like himself (on a corporate level). Nina winds up being completely infected by his evil and becomes someone just as dedicated to showing carnage without conscience as he is. The last thing she says to Lou in the movie as a question, asking him just what he wants for the footage (which means she's placing herself at his use, body and soul--she didn't ask how much money he wanted, but rather what he wanted from her). He is a ghoulish figure who finds satisfaction and profit in the pain, suffering, blood and death of others and he is a monster from the first frame of the film. It's just that it takes television's appetite for what he can provide to bring Lou to his full potential.

HubrisWeen continues as Checkpoint Telstar and four other blogs go through October with 26 movie reviews, from A to Z. Click on the banner to see what the other four reviewers have decided to cover today.

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