The always-good Jake Gyllenhaal pushes it up to great in this cynical and dark thriller/character piece. With spectacular creepiness, he portrays Louis Bloom, a disturbed scrap metal thief who happens upon the scene of a gory accident.

There he gets turned on to the work of those bottom-feeding TV cameramen whose job it is to get the grisliest footage possible for the local morning news as a way to improve ratings; if it bleeds, it leads. He buys a cheap camera and goes to work. He lucks into some particularly ghastly footage and sells it to the desperate news director of a low-level L.A. television station (Rene Russo, perfect).

The two form a symbiotic relationship, marrying Bloom’s madness with the insanity of the news media’s pandering and fear mongering. Bloom is a piece of work. His smile is false, his eyes are dead, and he speaks in what sounds like corporate motivational blather. Free of any moral compass, he soon becomes dangerously enterprising, and starts creating some carnage of his own.

Now, this is pretty twisted, but still fiction. It is, however, closer to the truth than one would like to think, and it has a wicked bite. (117 min)