Antoine Fuqua and Jake Gyllenhaal‘s The Guilty (Netflix, 10.1 — currently in theatres) is a fairly exacting remake of Gustav Moller’s same-titled original, which starred Jakob Cedergren as a suspended beat cop working as a 911 call-center responder, and dealing with an apparent abduction of a youngish mother by her ex-husband.
The Fuqua-Gyllenhaal uses almost the same story, mostly the same dialogue (written or more precisely polished by True Detective‘s Nic Pizzolato), many of the same shots, same tick-tock suspense factor.
I watched Moller’s film before the Fuqua, and I’m telling you right now that the Danish version is way better. Like Moller’s, Jake and Antoine’s version is a single-set thriller that’s all closeups and MCUs and computer screens. The Moller takes place in a Copenhagen call center; the Fuqua-Guyllenhaal is set inside a Los Angeles complex during a major fire and is constantly reaching for the big moments, and is marred by Gyllenhaal’s over-acting.
Moller’s version unfolds in a straight, matter-of-fact fashion — the story happens on its own terms and the suspense isn’t diminished by the subdued tone.
I’m sorry that Fuqua didn’t tell Gyllenhaal to turn it down and ease up. The result is too much sweating, too many hostile outbursts, and too much showboat weeping at the end.
And speaking of weeping, Riley Keough‘s voice performance as the abducted wife is infuriating as she cries and whines and moans in a one-note way. Her character has every reason to feel traumatized and terrified, of course, but the Danish actress in the same role (Jessica Dinnage) occasionally downshifts and delivers a change-up or two, and is much more interesting for that.
As the 45-minute mark in the Fuqua version approached, I was muttering to Keough “Jesus, can you deliver one line of dialogue without sounding like Minnie Mouse on a bad acid trip, fighting back the terror and the tears?”
Peter Sarsgaard, Ethan Hawke, Eli Goree and Paul Dano also do some voice-acting, but there’s no recognizing them.