The Guilty movie poster
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The Guilty
The Guilty movie poster

The Guilty Movie Review

In The Guilty, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a very angry 911 operator who desperately attempts to save an abducted woman. An American adaptation of a 2018 Danish movie that of course is better in most every way, this new release still offers up an attention-grabbing 90 minutes.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and written by Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective), this tightly told film doesn’t live up to the sum of its parts. Gyllenhaal is really good, but his turn as an emotionally distraught Joe Baylor falls short of explosive, even though that’s what it would have taken to really elevate this film. That’s not a critique of Gyllenhaal as much as it is the material, which feels less inventive or surprising than its foreign language counterpart. While the plot may not be straightforward, the overall production, for the most part set in a single room, doesn’t lend itself to the strengths of the director or writer. Released straight to Netflix, it feels like so many other Netflix movies with big names--just missing that special something.

Nonetheless, The Guilty succeeds at a base level. My wife, who hadn’t seen the Danish version, found the movie engrossing, which is to say that others not acquainted with the original may find this English-language version more gripping. And for a while, The Guilty holds your attention regardless of how much you know of the original--it’s not a simple feat, to execute a movie that largely relies on events that happen off camera, even if it has been done before.

In my review of the original The Guilty, I said it “defies its limitations at every turn.” This new version feels more constrained, less surprising, and yet that doesn’t mean it isn’t without merit.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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