“A demoted police officer assigned to a call dispatch desk is conflicted when he receives an emergency phone call from a kidnapped woman.”

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writers: Nic Pizzolatto, Gustav Möller, Emil Nygaard Albertsen
Staring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riley Keough, Peter Sarsgaard
Release Date: September 24, 2021
Streaming: Netflix

Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a demoted police officer who has been taken off the streets and placed in the dispatch office. His prickly and sensitive nature gets heightened when he receives a 9-1-1 call from a woman by the name of Emily (Riley Keough) who appears to have been kidnapped. Baylor begins to try and solve the mystery he’s learning about through his headset, all the while dealing with his personal problems of being separated from his wife and on trail for an on-the-job shooting.

The Guilty hinges on two major components: the performance of Jake Gyllenhaal as Joe Baylor, and the reveal of the true crime and culprits the story spits out. The entire movie takes place in a Los Angeles dispatch center and Joe is the only prominent character that we interact with on the screen. He has to react solely to people’s voices, which I can imagine is no easy task at all.

Gyllenhaal’s performance is good, but his character is a difficult thing to break down. Are we meant to like him? Are we meant to feel anything for him? There are instances in the story where I want to punch Baylor in the face. He is genuinely a dick to so many people, whether it be his fellow dispatch callers or some people on the phone. Baylor is unhinged. He is dealing with a lot, it is understandable. There is a parallel between the emotional distress of Baylor and Emily, this I understand. But it has hard to root for the guy. Every bit of emotion in this movie is to do with the crime Baylor is trying to solve.

Below I am going to talk about the twists in the story. So if you don’t want spoilers, please avoid everything with the italics.

The first twist finding out that Abby’s brother, and Emily’ & Henry’s son, Oliver, has been mutilated and presumed killed was a great swerve. The sequence where Baylor is on the phone with the two cops who go and check on the abandoned kids is the most gripping in the entire movie.

The second twist is forecasted, but still effective. Emily is the who harmed Oliver and Henry is taking her to the mental hospital this “kidnapping” is really an attempt to get her the help she needs at a mental hospital. It makes sense because as the audience you are wondering why the kidnapper would let Emily keep her phone. Just bad practice.

This twist was most illustrated when Baylor is talking with Emily on the phone and trying to calm her down. They talk about favorite food, favorite places and favorite memories of their kids. During these conversations Emily talks as if she is in a daze with massive pauses and a fairy-like cadence. You know the vibes are off. Something is unhinged.

The story is what elevates The Guilty above average and makes it a very fun watch. It honestly is a bit the opposite of Locke (2013), which stared Tom Hardy. Locke is propelled forward by Hardy’s acting chops, while The Guilty‘s gas pedal is the story.

This version of The Guilty is a remake of a 2018 Denmark movie by the name of Den skyldige. Den skyldige was nominated in multiple award circuits for best foreign or international film. It is a lot like Cold Pursuit (2019) is a remake of the Norwegian movie In Order Of Disappearance (2014) and how My Son (2021) is the remake of a French original from 2019. In both instances, the original was far superior. However, The Guilty is a better movie than Cold Pursuit and My Son, but it appears like Den skylidge is a step above them all with its award consideration.

One other thing to note is that The Guilty is directed by Antoine Fuqua, a man known for his action movies and personification of calm in the face of pressure. Jake Baylor, and The Guilty as a whole, are grand departures from what people would expect. It is about a manic man in a claustrophobic space. There isn’t even a chance for slow-mo charisma or witty dialogue; The Guilty is Fuqua stripped down.

The Guilty is better than I thought it would be. It was also different than what I expected. The first twist is a lot like When A Stranger Calls (1979), meaning that it alone keeps your gripped for what else could be spit out as the movie elapses. You may not come out of the movie liking any of the characters, but you’ll come out noticing your blood pressure was a little higher than normal.

STANKO RATING: B- (3.0/5 Stars)

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