Netflix’s The Guilty is a psychological showcase for Jake Gyllenhaal

The majority of the film takes place within a 911 call center.

Antoine Fuqua directed the well-regarded Denzel Washington/Ethan Hawke film Training Day 20 years ago. That’s simple to recall since practically every film Fuqua has done since then has used “from the director of Training Day” as a significant selling point. (Other comparably popular films from the autumn of 2001 lack this characteristic.) “From the filmmaker of Don’t Say a Word” hasn’t become commercial jargon.) It demonstrates how closely Fuqua has become identified with cop pictures, despite the fact that they only make up a minor fraction of his résumé. He’s directed a sci-fi film (Infinite), a boxing film (Southpaw), and a Western (the remake of The Magnificent Seven), in addition to a slew of Denzel Washington films.

But he’s still “the director of Training Day,” as if the previous 20 years didn’t exist. But, for once, it feels appropriate: His latest Netflix film The Guilty is a surprising companion piece to his other police stories. It’s a thriller about a cop on the brink in which the cop, portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, is confined to just a few of rooms.

After being demoted, Los Angeles police officer Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal) answers 911 calls in this adaptation of a 2018 Danish film. At first glance, utilizing the job as punishment appears to be an insult to the system’s expert operators. But, after a while, Joe’s assignment begins to feel like a punishment for them as well, given his frequent annoyance with his lower-level coworkers. Joe is clearly eager to get away from his desk and out on the streets, and while on the job, he makes multiple personal calls referring to a looming hearing that he hopes will get him there. He also makes personal calls regarding his necessary divorce, replete with contested child custody.

Netflix’s The Guilty is a psychological showcase for Jake Gyllenhaal

When he receives a call from a weeping lady, he is distracted from whatever horror awaits him outside the dispatch room. She’s being driven somewhere in a vehicle against her will. In the background, a guy is yelling threats. She requires assistance, but too many of the on-duty emergency personnel are preoccupied with the California wildfires.

Joe, stressed by the situation but obviously energized by the chance to play cop again, makes a series of calls to various sections of law enforcement while investigating the case and attempting to assist the woman from his desk. The Guilty is a one-location thriller; except from a few establishing shots and brief fades into hazy images, it takes place entirely in Joe’s contact center. Fuqua’s career began with music videos, and it’s easy to picture an earlier version of this film leaning heavily on quick cuts, impressionistic lighting, and dramatic perspectives to fuel the scant action.Though there is some of it here, Fuqua’s aesthetic is more typically subdued in the effort of maintaining the subject over a 90-minute duration. As Gyllenhaal grows more agitated, the film employs fewer cuts; some of the film’s most stressful climax sequences are played out in lengthy static views of the actor’s face.

Underneath The Guilty’s pulpy structure, which is similar to Halle Berry’s 2013 thriller The Call, lies a more serious human drama featuring Joe’s turbulent past and frazzled state of mind. The mix of genre thrills and potential societal importance isn’t always smooth, as it has been in Fuqua’s other cop thrillers. The Guilty spends a lot of time dangling the fear of child endangerment in front of the viewer, followed by a presentation of mental illness that is between between pity and exploitation.Some of this is alleviated by what appears to be a real curiosity in how to present a cop tale in 2021. Fuqua and True Detective writer Nic Pizzolatto, who adapted this screenplay, definitely didn’t intend to craft a tin-eared homage to older eras of police dramas.

Netflix’s The Guilty is a psychological showcase for Jake Gyllenhaal

Though Fuqua’s films haven’t shied away from depicting law enforcement abuses — recall the flashy, malicious figure that earned Washington his Training Day Oscar – they’re generally set against innocent, honest cops. The Guilty only has one “actual” cop on screen; the others are either voices on the other end of the phone or policemen who aren’t frustrated by their full-time job at the contact center. The phone-only cast is impressive: Peter Sarsgaard, Riley Keough, Ethan Hawke, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Paul Dano all ring in, as if this were a blown-up Frasier episode.

Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, is the entire show, and his irritated, driven, suffering persona doesn’t exactly celebrate his line of work. His harshness lends the film an edge, as well as an undeserved air of seriousness. Despite Gyllenhaal’s amazing intensity as the film gradually reveals Joe’s whole story arc, his presence feels like a shortcut, albeit an effective one — a near-guarantee that the film will be regarded more seriously. Maybe it should be; there’s something to be said about discussing real issues within the boundaries of a gimmicky pulp thriller. However, like with Training Day, a remarkable performance can occasionally overshadow the drama rather than serve it.

The Guilty is now available on Netflix.

Similar Posts