The Guilty is a fairly taut one-man show for Jake Gyllenhaal, a cop receiving 911 calls as Los Angeles burns. Busted down from active duty to answer dispatch calls, Gyllenhaal is a policeman on the edge, awaiting a court appearance for some misdemeanour, trying to communicate with his estranged wife and daughter, a coiled spring lashing out at all around him.
His patience with some 911 callers is minimal, but when he receives a phone call from a kidnapped woman, he has to make a difference, wanting to achieve some grace, no matter what the cost. Gyllenhaal is unafraid of being hard to like as he uses and abuses his connectivity skills to get to the heart of the mystery of his caller and her possibly-at-risk family. Sweating and sucking on an asthma inhaler, his backstory is gradually eked out via some expository and often clunky dialogue with ex-police partners and his wife.
This is a remake of the Dutch thriller Den Skyldige and is competently staged by director Antione Fuqua, although some of its plot machinations are easy to spot and there is an element of indulgence in Gyllenhaal’s teary, snotty performance. The keeping the victim on the line while help is summoned is a familiar staple, done superbly in the likes of BAFTA-nominated short film Operator – and this has an exaggerated Hollywood sheen to it.
Guest callers on the line include Riley Keogh, Ethan Hawke and Peter Saarsgard, but this doesn’t have the believability of 999: What’s Your Emergency? and is less gritty than it wants us to believe. A showy character study for Gyllenhaal that entertains but feels ultimately hollow, The Guilty is a swift 90 minutes of so-so suspense.
Dir: Antoine Fuqua (15, 91 mins)
Streaming on Netflix now
words KEIRON SELF