THE GUILTY (NETFLIX) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: The Guilty takes place over the course of a single morning in a 911 dispatch call center. Call operator Joe Bayler (Gyllenhaal) tries to save a caller in grave danger—but he soon discovers that nothing is as it seems, and facing the truth is the only way out.
Jake Gyllenhaal, one of our generation’s best actors produced and appears in this remake of a 2018 Danish thriller of the same name. As expected, Gyllenhaal delivers a solid performance but sadly, the scripting lacks the urgency and inventiveness to last for the whole of 90 minutes.
Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal) is a troubled cop working as a 911 operator at the dispatch centre after being suspended for an unexplained pending case. It’s his last day as an operator and he is due to appear in court the day after. He seems to be suffering from asthma, estranged from his wife and young daughter and he is clearly frustrated with his callers. In comes Emily (voice of Riley Keough) who claims she has been abducted by her ex-husband in a white van.
Amidst a raging wildfire in LA and armed with only a headset and numerous contacts including his old working partners, Sergeant Bill Miller (voice of Ethan Hawke) and Rick (voice of Eli Goree), Baylor must locate a distraught Emily before it’s too late.
Working with Gyllenhaal for the second time after Southpaw, Antoine Fuqua known for Training Day and The Equalizer fails to deliver a final product that stands out from the crowd. For a movie that is confined to a single location and mostly from a single character’s perspective, there ought to be a far less conventional way of storytelling. Partly perhaps the blame goes to the adapted screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto which offers a cliché-ridden predictable tale of redemption.
Fuqua tried his best to maintain the intensity hoping that the audiences can continue to root for Baylor and the safety of Emily in their bated breath. However, it’s clear that the numerous close-ups of Gyllenhaal and his constant coughing and harsh tones isn’t going to save the day let alone a tired twist in the movie’s final third act.
Notable actors and Fuqua’s past collaborator liked Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard and Paul Dano chips in voice performances although there’s no significant positive effect overall except doing a favour to Fuqua. Basically it’s just a one-man show taking place largely in a room, the perfect way to shoot a movie during an ongoing pandemic.
No offence to the original movie, there’s a pretty similar one in 2013 that starred Halle Berry as a 911 operator who saved a kidnapped teenager entitled The Call. The latter was a no-holds-barred silly action thriller that works perfectly as compared to The Guilty. Maybe you should first check out the Halle Berry flick and see which one fares better.
Review by Linus Tee