In Los Angeles, it has always been about the image you project in order to achieve "success." Whether this involves switching a facade here or telling a lie there is of no consequence. Los Angeles has never made any bones about what it is in this regard: the non-reality. This is, of course, just one of the many ways in which it is the polar opposite of New York City, which is, incidentally where the director and screenwriter of Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy, spent much of the early 80s while hanging out in an abandoned synagogue with Madonna.
Gilroy's youth in Santa Monica is undoubtedly where his comfortableness with the character and geography of the L.A. stemmed, a city capable of spawning the likes of Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a part-time thief/part-time internet knowledge troller. After beating up (and perhaps killing) a private security guard one night, Bloom happens upon a car accident where he sees Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), a "freelance" videographer for the local news, preying on the scene like a vulture with his camera. Intrigued by what Loder does, Bloom asks him a few questions about what it takes, to which Loder can barely muster a guffaw.
Capable enough to teach himself the ropes, Bloom steals a bike and pawns it for "store credit" so as to buy a camcorder and a police scanner. Soon after, he hires an employee, Rick (Riz Ahmed), desperate enough for money to take him up on his offer of thirty dollars a night. Together, the two actually prove to be quite the competition for Loder, who offers Bloom a job for his expanding outfit after Bloom catches footage of a crime scene (during which he positions the body himself in order to lend a more "artistic effect" to the video) before the police or anyone else gets there. Convinced of his own superiority, Bloom not so politely rejects Loder and goes about his usual business of what the Manson Family would call "creepy crawling."
More concerned with winning the affections of the station's news director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo, Gilroy's wife), Bloom continues to show off his creepy(er) side with the threat of pulling his steady stream of morally bankrupt footage from her channel unless she agrees to see him romantically. Not wanting to risk losing her position as director with the renewal of her contract and sweeps coming up (all of which Bloom has none too gently reminded her of), Nina ultimately caters to his every whim in order to secure her livelihood.
Unfortunately, she begins to expect too much of Bloom, who now has to contend with Loder's slew of manpower during sweeps week. As a subtext for the fact that Bloom is constantly striving to break into a new stratum, one that he was never designed to belong to, his partner says something particularly (and uncharacteristically) salient as they're stopped at a light near Bed, Bath & Beyond. He muses, "Bed, Bath & Beyond. Oh that's a good store." Thinking twice about the money it requires to shop there and what you must possess in order to require shopping there in the first place, Rick adds, "Making peace with what you don't have. That's what it's all about. Livin' with what you ain't got, right?" Bloom makes no response.
In order to sustain the quality of work he has provided thus far, Bloom goes past the brink of insanity to secure the ultimate in high-octane, macabre footage for the concluding segment of the story he has built around a murder in Granada Hills, resulting in bloodshed, legal quarrels and, obviously, high ratings. The nature of Los Angeles--cold, unforgiving, but with a welcoming exterior--takes over Bloom entirely. But how can you hold a man accountable to morality when he makes statements like, "I would never ask you to do anything that I wouldn't do myself."? To be sure, Nightcrawler has proven itself worthy of the robust arsenal of noirish films centered around L.A., Drive included.