Review: The Guilty

The Guilty 188x300 - Review: The GuiltyThis American remake of a Danish thriller of the same name stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a cop who’s been put on desk duty awaiting a trial that could have serious repercussions on his career. He’s answering 911 calls and isn’t happy about it a bit. But when a call comes in from a woman that he quickly realizes is in trouble, everything changes.  Back in 2018 when the original came out, it landed at the top of my and Mainstream Chick’s lists for the best foreign films that year. Sadly, this new iteration doesn’t rise to that level. Sure Jake’s good, but Jakob Cedergren was amazing and a lot of the power of the first film came from his restrained performance. Gyllenhaal and director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Magnificent Seven) chose to go for more bombast. Perhaps if I hadn’t seen the first film, I’d be less critical.

The gist of the film is: Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal) is a cop who’s been sent to time out and is pretty pissed off about it, and everything else. People call 911 for all manner of things and he’s not the most sympathetic of listeners. He’s basically a jerk to some of them. But then a woman calls and he’s about to cut her off because she’s babbling, but he figures out that she’s actually pretending to talk to her children because she’s in the car with someone who’s kidnapping her.  And from that moment to the end, Joe’s doing everything he can to get the rest of the cops in LA to find her and help her.

What this version adds are more obvious reasons for Joe to be on edge: California wildfires that are messing with police response times, Joe’s asthma being exacerbated by the smoke, even a wrecked home life. And then there’s Joe’s lack of impulse control. Gyllenhaal seems to have a great time chewing the scenery in this one, which was shot during the pandemic and perhaps that’s what a lot of people who have spent too much time alone, talking only on the phone (or Zoom) are feeling right now. I preferred the more reigned in version. But hey! This one is on Netflix and it’s Gyllenhaal. Watch it, and then if you can, scrounge up the original and compare for yourself.

Begins streaming on Netflix Oct 1.

[Mainstream Chick’s quick take: I agree with Arty Chick that we’d probably be less critical if we hadn’t seen the original — and if it hadn’t been so darn good! With that in mind, those who haven’t seen the original are in for a solid flick and intensely engrossing performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. We’ve certainly seen worse American remakes of excellent foreign films. So I’m cutting ’em some slack with this one. And, it doesn’t require theatrical viewing for impact. Bonus! -hb]

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