This is one of those movies whose premise alone made it a must-see for me: Louis Bloom, a down-on-his-luck jack-of-all-trades, kicking around the streets of LA without a job, discovers an opportunity to make some money by shooting explicit crime scene footage and selling it to the local evening news. Before long, we get the sense that he's maybe a little too good at the job, that he enjoys it maybe a little too much. Prowling around the mean streets under cover of darkness, with his camera and his uncanny ability to beat even the police to the scene of the crime, it becomes clear that he'll stop at nothing to get the scoop on the latest tragedy.
Jake Gyllenhaal creates a truly terrifying characterization in Louis, who veers between the persona of a wide-eyed, over-eager naif, and an impossibly canny, manipulative psychopath. With his ability to simultaneously dazzle and intimidate everyone he comes into contact with, Louis rises quickly to the top of his cynical, mercenary profession, unburdened of the restrictions of possessing a conscience. It is a brilliant performance that strikes all the right notes.
Writer-director Dan Gilroy (this is his directorial debut, and he is definitely a talent to watch) has crafted a gripping, atmospheric Neo-Noir thriller that is part character study, and part damning satire of the news business. Gilroy does an especially admirable job of using Los Angeles as a character all its own. He makes the city appear deceptively bright and mundane by day, coming alive at night with all sorts of sordid goings-on that seem to exist only to satiate the appetites of the nightly news audience, hungry for stories of blood and death that they can devour through the window of their television screen.