© Bold Films
Nightcrawler follows the story of 'Lou Bloom', a garden-variety psychopath who's willing to do anything and everything to get what he wants. He's played by a rather gaunt Jake Gyllenhaal, whose hunger is obvious from the get-go. In the opening of the film we see that Lou is not beyond theft and robbery, demonstrating his lack of a conscience, but the back story is missing and we don't realize just how deep and essential that lack is. We also see him use a preternaturally persistent and manipulative dialogue to 'negotiate' his targets into succumbing to his will.

Lou is looking for cash, and his discovery of a potential revenue stream in filming and selling graphic displays of tragedy to TV news is the central arc of the plot. The brilliance in the script is apparent as we see Lou cruise through moral dilemmas, manipulate those around him with style and charisma, and a consistent lack of any pangs of conscience.

He cuts down his competition, played by Bill Paxton, in order to get ahead. The way in which he does it, indirect and discrete, shows us his ability to think things through clearly, while having no real conscience to distract him from achieving his selfish goals. Lou takes on an assistant, Rick, who acts as the film's more humane counterbalance to Lou. Rick's naivety and underclass background give him little room to maneuver and forces him to accept Lou's lead throughout the film, demonstrating a frequent theme of the psychopath using the circumstances of his targets as leverage.

© Dan Gilroy, 'Nightcrawler'
Lou excels at turning violent crime or bloody accidents into cold hard cash.
The climax of the film surrounds a SWAT home invasion, which Lou cashes in on big time. He uses the film to further his involvement with a local station, to further manipulate his contact there, played by Rene Russo and to ingratiate himself further, granting him more access and deeper involvement.

Doing my best not to spoil the film, I'll leave the rest of the plot to interested viewers, but I'd like to take a minute to discuss the social commentary of the film. Not only does it reflect American media's interest in graphic violence and rampant habit of turning victims into revenue streams, but it goes deeper, showing us how a 'garden-variety' psychopath is able to not only survive in today's culture but thrive and prosper and extend his influence around him.

When we compare Lou to the Psychopathy Checklist there are many items which can be ticked off, I'll leave the list here for those who are interested and as you watch the film (or if you've seen it already) think about how many of the below traits that Lou possesses.
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Emotionally shallow
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
Keep in mind that the way in which the test is run is by giving a score of 0, 1 or 2 for each trait and then tallying the total. A psychopath is someone who reaches a critical score of 30 or above.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom shows us how psychopaths wear a 'mask of sanity'
When we consider the potential for a man like Lou, who comes from nothing, to use crime, death and chaos to get ahead, it's chilling to ponder the ramifications of someone who comes from wealth and has the social connections to do so on a grand-scale. As such, Nightcrawler displays our global society in a microcosm, showing us how people are manipulated and used by psychopaths. By focusing on a handful of characters in a modest setting, we can see the nuts and bolts of psychological manipulation as well as the everyday behavior of a psychopath. The most fascinating aspect of the film is how well Gyllenhaal is able to capture the essence of psychopathy and put it into a medium which can be shared and learned from by anyone who watches him with a careful eye.

Take a look at the trailer below: