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Jake Gyllenhaal’s Netflix White-Knighting Comes Up Empty

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13.09.2021

Can you have a long dark night of the soul if you don’t have a soul? The Guilty, a new film by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), with Jake Gyllenhaal appearing in practically every shot as a 9-1-1 operator seeking to help a desperate caller, is certainly set over the course of a long night, and is dimly lit. But Joe, its protagonist, is no more than a grab-bag of issues and conflict—a cypher for an idealized sort of American valor that can still shine through the pervading murk. For this reason and a few others, The Guilty has a deeply hokey flavor, like a bourbon start-up.

Gyllenhaal, emoting handsomely throughout and occasionally stretching a subtly biceped arm in frustration, plays the central cop-with-a-conscience, one Joe Bayler (get it?). Joe, we are given to understand from a few exposition-minded phone calls he takes early on, has a lightly scornful attitude toward people calling upon his services, being vaguely victim-blaming and libertarian-sounding. We also........

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