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

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Twenty years ago, Antoine Fuqua directed the popular thriller Denzel Washington / Ethan Hawke Training day. It’s easy to remember, because the trailer for almost every movie Fuqua has made since then has fallen “from the director of Training day”As a major draw. (Other similar blockbuster films from the fall of 2001 do not share this distinction. “From the director of Don’t say a word“did not become a universal marketing shortcut.) It shows how closely Fuqua is associated with police films, even though they are only a small part of his filmography. He made science fiction (Infinite), a boxing photo (left-handed), and a western (the remake of The Magnificent Seven), alongside numerous non-police action films and Denzel vehicles.

But he is still “the director of Training day”, As if the last 20 years had never happened. For once, however, it seems fitting: his new Netflix movie the guilty is an unexpected companion to his past detective stories. It’s a cop thriller on the verge where the cop, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is confined to a few rooms.

In this remake of a 2018 Danish film, Los Angeles cop Joe Baylor (Gyllenhaal) answers 911 calls after his demotion. At first, using work as a punishment sounds like an insult against the professional operators of the system. But after a while, Joe’s mission begins to feel like punishment to them, too, given his constant irritability towards his quiet colleagues. Joe is clearly anxious to get away from his office and return to the streets, and while he’s at work he takes several personal calls alluding to an audience that is fast approaching and who he hopes. , will get him there. He’s also making personal calls about his forced marriage on the rocks, with contested child custody.

Jake Gyllenhaal on the phone in a glass-walled 911 call center in The Guilty

Photo: Netflix

But a distraction of any inconvenience awaits him outside the dispatch room arrives when he receives a call from a sobbing woman. She’s in a van against her will, being driven somewhere. There is a man yelling threats in the background. She needs help, and too many emergency responders on duty are busy with the California wildfires.

Stressed by the situation but seemingly animated by the opportunity to play cop again, Joe makes various calls to different branches of law enforcement while researching the case, trying to help the woman from his office. . the guilty is a thriller in one place; apart from a few shots of establishment and brief blurry fades, he stays in the call center with Joe. Fuqua made his debut in music videos, and it’s easy to imagine a version of this early-career film relying heavily on quick cuts, impressionistic lighting, and dramatic angles to optimize the limited action. While there’s a bit of that here, Fuqua more often settles his style by supporting material over a 90-minute span. As Gyllenhaal gets more frantic, the film uses fewer clippings – some of its more tense climactic scenes take place in extended static shots of the actor’s face.

Under the guiltythe luscious setup of – not so different from the 2013 thriller Halle Berry The call – is a more psychological human drama involving Joe’s troubled story and his exhausted state of mind. As with Fuqua’s other crime thrillers, the balance between thrill and potential social relevance isn’t always graceful. A lot of the guilty involves portraying the threat of endangering children before the public, pursued by treatment for mental illness that falls somewhere between empathy and exploitation. Part of that is mitigated by what appears to be genuine interest in how to tell a cop story in 2021. Fuqua and his sinister pulp expert colleague Nic Pizzolatto, the Real detective the writer who adapted this scenario clearly did not want to go back to previous eras of detective stories.

Jake Gyllenhaal looks tense as he looks in a mirror in Netflix's The Guilty, almost as if he might be The Guilty himself

Photo: Netflix

While Fuqua’s films did not shy away from law enforcement misdeeds – remember the sighted and malicious character who earned Washington his Training day Oscar – they are usually juxtaposed with innocent and honest police officers. the guilty really only has one “real” cop onscreen; the rest are voices on the other end of the phone or agents who aren’t irritated by their full-time call center job. The phone-only cast is impressive: Peter Sarsgaard, Riley Keough, Ethan Hawke, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Paul Dano all call, like it’s an oversized episode of Frasier.

But Gyllenhaal is the whole show, and his irritable, motivated, struggling character doesn’t exactly glorify his job. His unpleasantness gives the film its edge, and perhaps an undeserved sense of seriousness as well. For all the awe-inspiring intensity Gyllenhaal conjures up as the film slowly clears up the angst of Joe’s full story arc, his presence feels like a shortcut, albeit awe-inspiring – a near-guarantee that the film will be. taken more seriously. Maybe it should be; There is value in solving serious problems from the confines of a whimsical pulp thriller. But as with Training dayAt times, a memorable performance dominates the drama, rather than serving it.

the guilty is now streaming on Netflix.

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