The Guilty: Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a HAIR RAISING performance despite Antoine Fuqua's flawed remake

Updated on Oct 02, 2021 04:09 AM IST  |  83.2K
The Guilty released on Netflix today, i.e. October 1
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Joe Baylor in The Guilty.

The Guilty

The Guilty Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal

The Guilty Director: Antoine Fuqua

Streaming Platform: Netflix

The Guilty Stars: 3/5


When you have a fine performer like Jake Gyllenhaal, who manages to fine-tune the minutest of varying emotions in his riddled characters, you can most definitely entrust the entire movie on his broad, steely shoulders. That's exactly what director Antoine Fuqua, who reunites with Jake after Southpaw, does in The Guilty, an almost 'carbon copy' remake of the brilliant 2018 Oscar-nominated Danish film of the same name.

Though not as gripping as its original, The Guilty caters to the casual Netflix viewers, who are looking for some cheap thrills in their daily entertainment with a hair-raising performance delivered on a silver platter by Gyllenhaal. In The Guilty, which tastefully is an apt title given the dwindling emotions of its lead protagonist, the storyline centres on LAPD cop Joe Baylor, who is forced to do 911 duty due to a crime he (may or may not have) committed and is currently standing on trial for.

Taking place on the eve of his trial, Joe's entire existential crisis comes into question when he receives an emergency call from a young woman named Emily Lighton (Riley Keough). Pretending to be talking to her young children, Joe quickly deciphers a cry for help as Emily has been abducted. What follows is Joe's officer tactics kick in, more like come blazing through as he's hell-bent on finding Emily, which as a 911 operator, is above and beyond his line of duty. Amidst the rambunctious wildfire taking over Hollywood hills, the dispatch centre is filled to the brim with constant emergency phone calls. 'Guilty' plays a pivotal driving point in Joe's mannerisms, as he's overwhelmed not just by the wildfires and Emily's abduction but his impending trial as well which it's way more than it may seem.


Impulsive decisions are made with the perceived notion of whose right and wrong, finds a relatable sense of trust between Joe and Emily which as expected leads to some shocking twists and turns along the one hour and 30 minutes duration. Given how the one-room, confined location is the setting and vital plot point, the viewers are obliged to imagine some of the high stakes sequences while Jake and the supporting cast, mostly their voices, help entangle the intensity of what is at stake, in present time.

Steering the overzealous ship called The Guilty is Gyllenhaal, who takes The Nightcrawler route to showcase the melting mindfulness of his jaded character. Every eyebrow raise, questioning eyes and even the constant need to relieve stress by pressing on an asthma pump is shown with deliberate intricacy, courtesy of Maz Makhani's intrusive, focal point cinematography and Jason Ballantine's smart, overlapping editing. Jake, in particular, has a mean knack to leave you invested in the messiest of characters he plays and in this case, the supremely talented actor excels in humanising, who is, an A-grade a**hole. 


Really; Joe doesn't have an ounce of likeable qualities as he's rude to his colleagues - Sergeant Denise Wade (Christina Vidal) and Manny (Adrian Martinez), who try to straighten him out - and has an air of superior machoism in his beck and call. He's the complete opposite of what a 911 operator is supposed to be. Joe chuckles at a man whose been robbed by a prostitute while he blatantly refuses to send an ambulance to a biker who severely hurt his knee. He also has no qualms about calling his ex-wife Jess (Gillian Zinser) at 2 am, just because he felt like talking to his daughter Paige. What's interesting to decode is how Jakob Cedergren, in the original, chose a more subdued approach towards the lead protagonist, Asger Holm, while Gyllenhaal takes the OTT route with Joe Baylor.

When it comes to The Guilty's voice cast, because none of them appears in real-time, it's Riley Keough as Emily and Christiana Montoya as Emily's daughter Abby, who are the most effective in dialling up the suspense to a 100, especially, regarding the fate of their troubled characters. Peter Sarsgaard, Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano also lend their voices for a limited time and do their respective jobs in letting Jake be the only anti-hero of his story.

Nic Pizzolatto's screenplay almost feels like a word-to-word translation of the original, giving you the blatant realisation of a different setting but the same old thing scenario. However, tying the Black Lives Matter movement to The Guilty's underlying storyline in an ambiguous manner was a subtle, effective touch to shed light on how police are differentially treated in the court of law. Moreover, it's the closing moments in The Guilty when the dust settles which is when Joe's storyline is more intriguing.

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What The Guilty masterfully exudes is the brilliant use of sound mixing by Ed Novick, as blaring ambulance and police sounds, the constant ringing of helplines and multiple chatters fill up the fragmented silence while increasing the mayhem set not just on the background but our main protagonist's chaotic mindset as well.

In finality, The Guilty is for those who like the 'high-stakes mind games' genre tightly wrapped in a 'Jake Gyllenhaal' package. As for Jake Gyllenhaal; just give this stellar actor his overdue Oscar already!