I was just thinking the other day how about ten years ago, Jake Gyllenhaal tried to be an action star and audiences were like, Nah, we’re good, and that the flop of The Prince of Persia led to one of the most interesting runs an American actor had in the 2010s. Jake G slammed out a streak of all-time performances in films like Enemy, Prisoners, Nightcrawler, Okja, Nocturnal Animals, The Sisters Brothers, and his appearance as “Mr. Music” in John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch. And he still managed to work in solid performances in more typical Hollywood fare like based-on-true-stories Everest and Stronger, and sci-fi thrillers like Source Code and Life, before returning triumphant to the popcorn space as Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home. After such an incredible run in the 2010s, it’ll be interesting to see what Jake G makes of the 2020s.
We know, for instance, he is starring in a Michael Bay movie. Michael Bay loves working with real Movie Stars. Jake G is one of the last real Movie Stars (he slid in just before the 2005 cut-off date when we officially stopped minting capital-letter Movie Stars). He’s also co-starring with Oscar Isaac in a project (one of two) about the making of The Godfather. And he has The Guilty, due from Netflix this fall, his first official live-action role of the 2020s. A teaser for The Guilty dropped yesterday and it is stressful. It’s just Jake G on an emergency call with a woman who has been “put in the back of a van”. The back of a van: a place no one wants to be. The Guilty is an English-language remake of the Danish thriller Den Skyldige. It’s about a police officer stuck on desk duty while being investigated for a suspicious shooting. There is a lot more to this film than just the possible abduction scenario, but I have to say, after watching the teaser my mind went right to the early-aughts trash classic Cellular, in which Chris Evans tries to save Kim Basinger with the power of a cell phone and his pecs.
Undoubtedly, The Guilty will be classier than Cellular. For one thing, it’s premiering at TIFF. For another, the cast is a murderer’s row of indie all-stars including Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Riley Keough, Paul Dano, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, as well as comedians Byron Bowers and Bill Burr—who has serious dramatic chops and is finally getting roles to show that off. Netflix is also giving The Guilty, which is directed by Antoine Fuqua, a one-week exclusive run in theaters before dropping it on streaming. Given the fall release date and TIFF debut, I wouldn’t count out an awards push for Gyllenhaal and Fuqua, at least, though The Power of the Dog is already shaping up to be Netflix’s big Oscar film for the year. Besides, as much as I like Jake G, I never give him great odds in an Oscar race. He makes it look too easy. His performances are as visceral and detailed as you could ever want, but he doesn’t brag about his suffering or indulge in Method hysterics or do big body transformations (at least, not since Nightcrawler). He’ll probably win an Oscar someday, but like Brad Pitt, it will come later (this goes for Ryan Gosling, too).
Maybe it won’t be a top Oscar contender, but I look forward to being stressed the f-ck out by The Guilty.