Those Who Wish Me Dead

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Ideas for a Movie:

Plot #1: Hannah (Angelina Jolie) is a specially trained wildland firefighter traumatized by the deaths of 3 children she failed to save.

Plot #2: Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) and Jack (Aidan Gillen) are two contract killers that complete a hit on a district attorney and his family in Fort Lauderdale.

Plot #3: Owen (Jake Weber) is a forensic accountant that sees the murder of his boss on the news. Fearing for their lives, he escapes with his 12-year-old son Connor (Finn Little).

Plot #4: Ethan (Jon Bernthal) is the strapping sheriff and ex-boyfriend of Hannah. He is now married to Allison (Medina Senghore). The couple is anticipating a new arrival. She’s pregnant.


Each one of these disparate threads could be the basis of a different production. Yet these four situations all occur in literally the first 15 minutes. They will converge in a orderly manner later, so thanks for that. Nonetheless, the segments are pitched at the audience in a haphazard deluge without clarification. I craved coherence and sense.

It’s nice to see Jolie looking like herself in an action-packed thriller. She’s directed 5 films since 2007. Over the last decade, Angelina Jolie has most notably focused the acting side of her career on (1) playing a wicked fairy godmother and (2) voicing a tiger sidekick with a talent for kung fu. She’s a tough-talking smoke jumper battling the natural elements and evil hitmen. She’s the only female firefighter hanging out with a rowdy group of manly men. They naturally accept her as one of their own, but her gorgeous countenance stands out in the crowd. This is what the actress does. Jolie has such a physicality. She is beautiful, sure, but that belies a fiery personality. In a word the star is — charismatic. Seeing Angelina in her element is clearly something Warner Bros. wanted to highlight. The marketing prominently features the star on the poster with newcomer Finn Little partially visible in the lower-left corner. Thing is, it’s not just about Hannah. Nor is she the most interesting character.

This is a chronicle set in the Montana wilderness with multiple storylines that merge into a whole. Director Taylor Sheridan wrote Best Picture nominee Hell or High Water where he brilliantly utilized a similar blueprint. I hate to break it to the filmmakers, but this film ain’t winning awards. The narrative fragments are agonizingly vague. I understand what motivates that decision. Being bombarded with unnecessary minutiae can be a drain. I’m not asking for complicated exposition. However, laying a foundation is important. There’s hardly any explanation in the opening as to what is happening.

The screenwriters have deemed information as superfluous to our experience. We get to see WHAT people are doing, but not the details of WHO they are or WHY. What is on that piece of paper that Owen entrusts to his son? Why do Patrick and Jack wish this Connor kid dead? Tyler Perry pops up for an instant. He is never heard from or seen again. His appearance is so random it’s amusing. We can infer he’s a crime boss, but these and many other questions go unexplained. The writers don’t care. I did at first, then neither did I.

The movie begins badly. The screenplay simply drops us in the middle of the action. Michael Koryta is adapting his own 2014 novel with help from Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond) and director Taylor Sheridan. A storyteller can’t expect the viewer to care about a bunch of people we know absolutely nothing about. That changes though. As the events unfold, I got more invested. There are surprises — good ones — that kept me curious. Surprisingly it’s actress Medina Senghore, not Jolie, who gets to be the biggest badass. Patrick and Jack break into Allison’s home, looking for Connor. The fact she is pregnant seriously amplifies the tension of the scene. Her response is the most exciting sequence.

Those Who Wish Me Dead is a generic thriller dressed up with capable actors and lush cinematography. This is a real throwback to the pulp fiction of the 1990s. John Grisham’s The Client comes to mind. “Young boy witnesses a murder” is a development in both. DP Ben Richardson (Beasts of the Southern Wild) highlights the terror of uncontrolled wildfires. This trashy tale has the look of sophistication even when blighted by so much ambiguity. It’s frustrating at first. The movie recovers after a disastrous beginning — somewhat. The saga ultimately manages to entertain.

05-16-21

4 Responses to “Those Who Wish Me Dead”

  1. This is kind of disappointing to hear about a Taylor Sheridan film. Your review is right on message with everything else I’ve read. It’s unfocused. Sloppy. Surprisingly not character-driven, which seems a major departure from his other fare. To the point where, from where I’m sitting, it seems intentional. Though I don’t know why a filmmaker would want to go away from things that have made him an established name. Like, Those Who Wish Me Dead is not exactly Guy Ritchie doing Aladdin. (Though I’m also glad to see Ritchie is back to more regular fare with ‘Wrath of Man’ — he flat-out sold out for Disney, it’s pathetic.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the way you started the review. I wish the movie did the same. Love Jolie, but wasted here 2 ⭐️

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: