The Guilty is both a remake and a one actor film. Its Danish predecessor receives a 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating and an 87% Audience score. With Jake Gyllenhaal to star and Antoine Fuqua to direct, Netflix paid $30 million for the worldwide distribution rights. In my humble opinion, they overpaid. It’s tough to make a one actor film. Certainly, The Guilty is no Castaway (Tom Hanks), Gravity (Sandra Bullock), nor even The Martian (Matt Damon). I suggest it’s not even as good as The Call with Halle Berry. The first 911 call center movie you see is a novelty. After that, there’s not much new to be had.
Another disconnect between critic and viewer is exemplified by The Guilty‘s 69% Rotten Tomatoes rating but only a 47% Audience score. Why? Not only do you have the “done before” factor, the film lacks urgency despite the best efforts of Officer Joe Baylor. The tease is “broken people save broken people.” Early on, the viewer knows Bailey faces some sort of “disciplinary” action, but the extent is dribbled out over the course of the 90 minute film. The stress of the night leads to a big reveal, which has little basis in logic, but apparently loved by the Coastal critics. Overall, it’s an unsatisfactory conclusion. I give The Guilty 2.5 Gavels.
Taken off the streets, a “broken” policer office impatiently works at the Los Angeles 911 call center. In the midst of raging fires around the city, he receives a cryptic call from a frightened Emily. She relays that her kidnapper has a weapon. After that call disconnects, a follow-up to the residence finds six year old Abby home alone with a baby. With limited information, the California Highway Patrol is unable to locate the kidnapper’s vehicle. A welfare check at Abby’s residence finds her covered in blood. To find Emily, Joe Baylor needs the help of his former partner, Rick. Will their history get in the way?
Jake Gyllenahaal (Spider-Man: Far From Home, Spirit Untamed) bought the rights to The Guilty in December 2018. Clearly distraught awaiting his hearing, Joe Baylor continually insults callers even though he knows all his calls are recorded. This makes no sense for a guy who wants back out on the street. Voices heard include Peter Sarsgaard, Ethan Hawke, and Paul Dano. All must think this “radio gig” is pretty lucrative.
“The Guilty gets less and less plausible, not least of all in how neatly it ties together various plot elements.” Boston Globe
“Logical lapses trip up Jake Gyllenhaal’s rescue drama.” Chicago Sun-Times
Now you don’t have to feel guilty for not liking The Guilty.
“Plot mechanics come to feel like exactly that – and Gyllenhaal’s performance like finding yourself in a high-end acting workshop.” Financial Times
Film Companion writes “Jake Gyllenhaal agonises, seethes and sweats his way through this (mostly) sleek, 91-minute-long thriller…”
Put those two together and The Guilty feels like a workshop how-to of agonizing, seething and sweating. You’ve got better things to do with your time.