By Amy Daniels, Current Staff
“The Guilty” is another American remake of an international success that doesn’t quite live up to what made the original so remarkable.
Based on a 2018 Danish film directed by Gustav Möller, “The Guilty” was released Sept. 24 in theaters and then to Netflix on Oct. 1. As a fairly big fan of actor Jake Gyllenhaal and director Antoine Fuqua, it felt refreshing when I heard that this film was available, even though I didn’t personally have any prior knowledge of it before the release date.
“The Guilty” is about a mentally and morally unstable officer Joe Baylor, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who tries to solve a case over the phone after a lady who has supposedly been abducted calls the police in distress. What happens over the course of the day is full of twists as Joe becomes increasingly obsessed with finding and saving this troubled woman.
When I first watched this movie, I was somewhat impressed with how I was able to stay involved with the plot even though there weren’t a lot of visually captivating scenes. However, after seeing the original Danish film (“Den Skyldige”), starring Jakob Cedegren as the movie’s lead, Asger Holm, it opened my eyes and helped me see the number of differences between the two films.
Plot-wise, this remake wasn’t too different from the Danish version. But it feels that Fuqua was repeatedly unable to reach the depths of the original film.
“The Guilty” seems less focused on crafting an air-tight detective thriller but rather a messy character study of an obscure officer who seems to have an overwhelming load of baggage–both from work and from home–who works through it all during an irregular case.
The result is a film that’s messy and an experience that feels incredibly limited by its setting rather than interesting.
The single-location setting of the film results in a restricted ability to explore the deeper layers of Joe Baylor. It is obvious that an exploration of mental health within the police force was a very important topic for both Gyllenhaal and Fuqua to dig into. But there is only so much that can be shown with a character sitting in front of a screen.
Even though the film itself seemed to have some flaws, Gyllenhaal still delivers a strong performance. He managed to get me fairly intrigued as to what was going to happen next, which is hard to do when I already had begun to develop such poor opinions on the film. Gyllenhaal without question is one of the most gifted actors to grace our screens in this modern age. Unfortunately, the character Gyllenhaal plays is annoying and it’s hard to spend 91 minutes with Joe or appreciate Gyllenhaal’s abilities and see his true talent.
For a Netflix remake of a highly successful forgein film, this is overall an easy watch, especially if you haven’t seen the original. Aside from all of that, though, I do feel sorry for the people who went out to theaters to see this, just to have it be released on streaming a week later.
(Top image is official publicity material.)