Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom shows that you don’t have to be a journalist or a photographer to make it in the news business, you just have to have a nose for blood and a really strong stomach. In fact, tracking down the goriest, most gruesome deaths and crimes (especially those committed in rich neighbourhoods and against white people) seems a perfect fit for an enterprising but morally vacant soul such as Bloom, and thanks to a partnership with ratings-whore Nina (Rene Russo), he’s encouraged not only to continue, but to blur the line between finding and creating mayhem to “report.”
Gyllenhaal is gaunt, like a hungry animal prowling the night, his unblinking stare reminding me of Donnie Darko’s. He gives an increasingly chilling performance, cold but needy. You can never quite get a handle on just how intelligent this guy is. He studies the internet voraciously and comes off sounding like a wikipedia page, but the one thing you can’t learn online is feelings, and those are in short supply. Watching footage of a brutally murdered family, Lou has a self-satisfied smirk on his face, and Nina is practically salivating. These are not good people. There isn’t even a question of privacy, or of going too far. There is no too far.
Lou is pretty much irredeemable, as far as I can tell, unlike any other character I’ve seen on screen this year. It will give you the willies. First-time director Dan Gilroy will have you watching this movie with dread; with no ethics or scruples, anything can and may happen. Lou’s a dirty scavenger at best, and an unapologetic predator at what he would consider his best. Morality doesn’t factor in, which makes for a fascinating if disturbing character study of a man, who as near as I can tell, is void of any character to study.