Reviews for Netflix’s crime thriller The Guilty have been quite positive, with Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance and a surprising story praised.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s new Netflix thriller The Guilty has received positive reviews from critics, and here’s why the response has been so favorable. Fresh off his role as Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home, Gyllenhaal’s latest movie returns him to the thriller genre that he’s more than familiar with. The Guilty is an American remake of the 2018 Danish film of the same name from director Gustav Möller. The original crime thriller received rave reviews upon its release and was a contender for a Best Foreign Language Oscar nomination, and the success directly led to the decision to remake it so quickly under a bigger studio and with bigger names.
The Guilty stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Joe Baylor, a call operator at a 911 dispatch call center. Joe’s usual day of answering calls becomes more eventful than normal when he receives a call from a woman in distress. He begins to work with the woman to try and save her, but that begins to unravel a series of mysteries that lead Joe to question everything. The Guilty comes from director Antoine Fuqua, who is best known for Training Day and previously worked with Gyllenhaal on Southpaw, and has a script from True Detective creator Nick Pizzolatto. Considering the collection of talent involved, expectations for The Guilty were understandably high.
Reviews for The Guilty have been mostly positive, with the film originally getting off to a very strong start with aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes. As of the time of this writing, The Guilty has a 71% fresh rating from the 56 reviews collected from all critics on the platform. The Guilty‘s reception is more favorable if “Top Critics” are only considered, as it then jumps up to an 81% fresh rating from 16 reviews. All of the reviews highlight Jake Gyllenhaal’s commanding performance, while the most positive reviews also call out Fuqua’s ability to keep the tension high throughout and deliver a surprising finale.
The weight is on the protagonist, Fuqua, editor Jason Ballantine, cinematographer Maz Makhani and the largely heard and not seen cast to sustain climatic tension for 90 riveting minutes. Gyllenhaal’s performance is as strong as a one-man, Tony-caliber Broadway play.
One can hardly imagine a better modern trio of gritty Los Angeles chroniclers than Fuqua, Pizzolatto and Gyllenhaal all working together. And Gyllenhaal is absolutely commanding throughout the lean 91-minute runtime, a compelling ball of stress, anxiety and frustration working only with computer screens, phones and disembodied voices. It is no understatement that the success of “The Guilty” rests entirely on his shoulders.
Antoine Fuqua’s remake of a 2018 Danish movie, working a script by Nic Pizzolatto, is the rare redo that exceeds the original. There’s deeper resonance regarding the hot-button issue of police brutality. Filmed during lockdown as essentially a one-man show, it’s also right in tune with the general pandemic mood that the walls are closing in.
Fuqua’s smartest decision is to put the weight of the piece on Joe’s shoulders. Other directors would have added graphics like a ticking clock or over-cut the piece, but Fuqua and editor Jason Ballantine keep us locked into Joe Baylor, often letting his conversations unfold in unbroken shots. There are so many places that “The Guilty” could have gone wrong—and I’m sure some of them were discussed in producer’s offices—that I’m happy to report that Fuqua and his team very clearly understood what worked about the original. They add just enough of their own flavor while maintaining the thrust of their source so that only the most purist could argue against their innocence in the court of movie criticism.
For Gyllenhaal’s performance alone, The Guilty is worth your while, but that Fuqua and Pizzolatto are also able to craft a compelling, taut, emotional thriller that touches on everything from policing to mental illness make it a must-see.
The reviews for The Guilty confirm that Jake Gyllenhaal has delivered another great performance worth checking out. This is hardly a surprise for one of Hollywood’s best actors, but this was a unique challenge itself. The setup for The Guilty demands that Joe is in practically every scene, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 90-minutes of Gyllenhaal is an event. He’s delivered captivating performances throughout his career and especially with films like Nightcrawler, Prisoners, and Stronger. While he had starring roles in those features and many others, The Guilty offers even more of Gyllenhaal in an impressive performance. It sounds like it elevates and compliments Fuqua’s direction and Pizzolatto’s script too. Of course, not everyone is a fan of The Guilty, and the movie has received its fair share of critiques so far:
But director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, who wrote the screenplay, can’t stop turning the histrionics up to 11, underlining every moment and then planting a neon Post-It note on top. Gyllenhaal, too — who ricochets between righteous, furious, and outright unhinged — quickly surpasses logic, his character so extravagantly on edge you wonder whether he fistfights his own pants before he puts them on in the morning.
We should not immediately shrug off American remakes of foreign language films; it’s nice to give every movie a chance. But “The Guilty” is so stuck on recreating the big tense beats from the original that it’s very hard to watch this sort of thing and not think, “I’d rather be watching the original.” Further adding to that is the fact that Fuqua never seems entirely comfortable with the one-location setting. He’s an action filmmaker, and he will occasionally cut away from the call center to show blurry shots of cars on highways. These diversions add almost nothing, and instead completely break up the flow. Gyllenhaal is such an adept performer, why cut away from him to show a car’s taillights, when Gyllenhaal’s panicked face and wide eyes convey much more?
The Guilty tries its best to weave in elements of a police drama but ultimately ends up becoming a disappointing crop of clichés you’ve seen in every other thriller of this ilk. Your best bet is to watch the Danish version instead.
The negative reviews signal that The Guilty might not hit the same way for everyone. The criticisms that it closely follows the original movie are understandable, but that likely won’t bother most people who watch the remake since the original is vastly underseen. Even the harshest critics like Gyllenhaal’s performance, though, so it is the mileage viewers get from the rest of the film that will influence how much enjoyment each person gets.
- The Guilty (2021)Release date: Sep 24, 2021
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