Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, perhaps the most believably evil villain to ever be portrayed so sympathetically. In the opening scene, when he's committing some petty theft of scrap metal, he first tries to talk his way out with a sociopath's charm, and then just attacks the rent-a-cop and steals his watch.
Lou Bloom (which sounds appropriately close to "low blow") is a creature of L.A. darkness, a man with little formal training but a quick learner who knows if you search hard enough you can find anything (especially on the Internet.) And he's a very curious man, and one looking for stable work. In fact, he's so desperate for work he asks the junkyard operator if he'd take on an intern--the flat reply is "I'm not hiring a fucking thief."
Fortune smiles on Lou when he stops at a horrific car crash, and sees a freelance video crew (run by Bill Paxton's Jo Loder) film the carnage. Lou is interested in that work, and so when Loder refuses him, he hocks his bike (which I assume isn't actually his) and buys a camcorder and a police scanner. And he's off and running. Soon he has an exclusive deal with the lowest rated morning news show in L.A., and an awkward attempt at romancing the manager Nina Romina (Rene Russo.) He also hires an assistant Rick (Riz Ahmend,) mostly to navigate while he drives, but their working relationships becomes key to understanding Lou's mind. And then he starts manipulating the news. In kinda creepy ways. It's bad enough when he rearranges a corpse to get a better framing with the L.A. skyline in the background, but things get very dark and very creepy by the end.
Jake Gyllenhaal is always an interesting actor, and he's at the top of his game and possibly around the bend in this one. He anchors a fantastically bloody and cynical story of media exploitation and the American dream.
Running Time: 117
My Total Minutes: 373,254