The Guilty (2021 film)

The Guilty
"Official release poster": Text showcasing several emergency calls in red font overlap the face of a man. The words "Listen" and "Carefully" are highlighted in white letters. In the bottom left corner is "The Guilty" in large red letters.
Official release poster
Directed byAntoine Fuqua
Screenplay byNic Pizzolatto
Based on
The Guilty
  • Gustav Möller
  • Emil Nygaard Albertsen
Produced by
CinematographyMaz Makhani
Edited byJason Ballantine
Music byMarcelo Zarvos
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • September 11, 2021 (2021-09-11) (TIFF)
  • September 24, 2021 (2021-09-24) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

The Guilty is a 2021 American crime thriller film directed and produced by Antoine Fuqua, from a screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto. A remake of the 2018 Danish film of the same name, the film stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Christina Vidal, with the voices of Ethan Hawke, Riley Keough, Eli Goree, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Paul Dano, Peter Sarsgaard, and Bill Burr.

The Guilty had its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2021.[2] The film was released in a limited release on September 24, 2021, then digitally on Netflix on October 1. It received mostly positive reviews from critics, who praised Gyllenhaal's performance but still felt that the remake was inferior to the original film.


Troubled LAPD officer Joe Baylor is working the night shift at a 911 call center while he awaits a court hearing for an incident that occurred on duty eight months prior. He answers a call from a woman named Emily Lighton who reveals she has been abducted. Joe learns that she and her abductor are traveling in a white van, but Emily is forced to hang up before she can provide more details. Joe relays the information to the California Highway Patrol but they are unable to locate the van without a license plate number.

Joe calls Emily's home phone and speaks with her six-year-old daughter Abby, who tells Joe that her mom left the house with her dad, Henry Fisher. After getting Henry's cell phone number from Abby, Joe is able to retrieve the van's plate number, which he relays to the CHP. He also sends a patrol car to check on Abby and her baby brother, Oliver. Joe learns Henry has a record of assault. He calls Henry and demands to know where he is taking Emily, but Henry hangs up. Joe then calls his former partner Rick, who is off-duty, and asks him to visit Henry's house. Rick expresses concern about Joe's hearing, at which he is set to provide testimony.

Joe receives a panicked call from Abby when two officers arrive at her home; he instructs her to let them in. The officers notice blood on Abby and, upon searching the property, find Oliver in the bedroom either gravely injured or dead. Joe then calls Emily back and convinces her to pull the handbrake of the van, which she does, but it fails to crash the vehicle. Henry puts Emily into the back of the van. She tearfully tells Joe that she believed Oliver had "snakes in his stomach" and that she "took them out". When Henry stops the van and tries to remove Emily from the back, she hits him with a brick and flees.

Meanwhile, Rick breaks into Henry's apartment and finds documents from a psychiatric treatment facility in San Bernardino where Emily had been a patient. Joe calls Henry again, who explains he was taking Emily back to the facility; she had been off her medication for a number of weeks because they could not afford them and, during a psychotic episode, unintentionally hurt Oliver. Henry says he did not report the incident to the police because he does not trust the criminal justice system.

Emily calls Joe back from a freeway overpass, implying that she is preparing to die by suicide. Joe directs the CHP to her location while attempting to talk her down; he tries to distract her by revealing that he killed a 19-year-old while on duty because he was angry with him for hurting someone and "because I could". Joe tells Emily that Abby needs her and that he promised Abby she would come home. As officers arrive, Emily says she is “gonna go be with Oliver”, and the line goes dead. Joe thinks she has jumped, but later he gets a message from the CHP, saying that they got her to come down safely. He also learns that Oliver is alive and in the ICU at the hospital.

In the restroom, a distraught Joe calls Rick and asks him to recant his previous statement about the incident. He asks Rick to tell the truth at the hearing, even if it means he will spend years in prison. Joe then calls the Los Angeles Times to inform a reporter that he will plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter.




In December 2018, it was announced Jake Gyllenhaal had acquired rights to the 2018 Danish thriller film The Guilty, and would star in and produce a remake under his Nine Stories Productions banner, alongside Bold Films.[3] In September 2020, it was announced Antoine Fuqua would direct and produce the film, from a screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto.[4] Later that month, Netflix acquired worldwide rights to the film for $30 million.[5] In November 2020, Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Riley Keough, Paul Dano, Byron Bowers, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, David Castaneda, Christina Vidal, Adrian Martinez, Bill Burr, Beau Knapp and Edi Patterson joined the cast of the film.[6]

Principal photography began in Los Angeles in November 2020,[7][8] during the COVID-19 pandemic, and lasted for 11 days. Three days before production was set to begin, a person in contact with director Antoine Fuqua tested positive for COVID-19. Fuqua tested negative subsequently, so the production was still on schedule. He directed the entire film from a van with screens that had access to the cameras, maintaining contact with the cast and the crew.[9]


The Guilty had its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2021.[10] It was released in a limited release on September 24, 2021, prior to streaming on Netflix on October 1, 2021.[11]


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 70% based on 146 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Guilty is another Americanized remake overshadowed by the original, but its premise is still sturdy enough to support a tense, well-acted thriller."[12] Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 63 out of 100 based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[13]

Gayle Sequeira of Film Companion wrote, "Jake Gyllenhaal agonises, seethes and sweats his way through this (mostly) sleek, 91-minute-long thriller."[14]


  1. ^ "The Guilty". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  2. ^ Hammond, Pete (June 23, 2021). "Melissa McCarthy, Kenneth Branagh, Edgar Wright Movies Among First Set For Toronto Film Festival; In-Person Theater And Digital Screenings Planned". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  3. ^ Kroll, Justin (December 10, 2018). "Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in Remake of Denmark's Oscar Entry 'The Guilty' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  4. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 15, 2020). "'Southpaw' Duo Jake Gyllenhaal & Antoine Fuqua To Re-Team On Tense Thriller 'The Guilty'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  5. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 23, 2020). "Netflix Lands Jake Gyllenhaal-Antoine Fuqua Package 'The Guilty' In $30 Million WW Deal". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  6. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (November 13, 2020). "'The Guilty': Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Riley Keough & More Join Jake Gyllenhaal In Antoine Fuqua-Directed Netflix Drama". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  7. ^ "The Guilty". Backstage. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  8. ^ Kroll, Justin (November 11, 2020). "Michael Bay To Direct Action-Thriller 'Ambulance' With Jake Gyllenhaal In Talks To Star". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  9. ^ "The Guilty". Facebook. Retrieved October 2, 2021.
  10. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (July 20, 2021). "Toronto Film Festival Lineup Adds 'Dear Evan Hansen,' 'The Eyes of Tammy Faye' and 'Clifford the Big Red Dog'". Variety. Retrieved July 20, 2021.
  11. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (August 23, 2021). "Netflix Dates Fall Movies: A Whopping 42 Movies Coming At You". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  12. ^ "The Guilty". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  13. ^ "The Guilty Reviews". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved September 28, 2021.
  14. ^ Sequeira, Gayle. "The Guilty, On Netflix, Is An Effective Glimpse Of Police Work Via An Officer Who Can't See It". Retrieved October 8, 2021.

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