Those Who Wish Me Dead

Review by Rich Cline | 2/5

Those Who Wish Me Dead
dir Taylor Sheridan
scr Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt, Taylor Sheridan
prd Steven Zaillian, Garrett Basch, Aaron L Gilbert, Kevin Turen, Taylor Sheridan
with Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Medina Senghore, Jake Weber, Tyler Perry, Boots Southerland, Tory Kittles, James Jordan, Lora Martinez-Cunningham
release US 14.May.21,
UK 17.May.21
21/US New Line 1h39

bernthal hoult gillen

Is it streaming?

little and jolie
Bristling with machismo, this gritty thriller builds tension quickly and keeps several characters in peril, even though they're all tough as nails. Shooting on a clearly large budget, filmmaker Taylor Sheridan infuses scenes with his usual edgy mix of warm humanity and nasty violence. But this script feels on-the-nose, taking an obvious approach to its beefy story while sidestepping any themes. It's also full of niggling plot holes.
Chased by calmly vicious killers Patrick and Jack (Hoult and Gillen), mob informant Owen (Weber) takes his preteen son Connor (Little) on the run, driving cross-country to hide out in Montana with his sheriff brother-in-law Ethan (Bernthal) and his pregnant wife Allison (Senghore). But the hitmen are on their trail, and Connor ends up running through the forest, where he meets hard-nosed rebel smokejumper Hannah (Jolie). In an effort to, ahem, smoke Connor out, Patrick and Jack start an enormous blaze to distract everyone. But they have underestimated just how scrappy these people are.
Flashbacks reveal a traumatic event from Hannah's past that has left her grounded, manning ranger stations rather than skydiving into fires. She still loves roughhousing with the boys, even as she's wracked with guilt over past decisions. This set-up is so schematic that it tells us pretty much everything about what's coming. So as the characters converge for a showdown in a forest engulfed in flames, there's little doubt about where this will end up.

Even with her petite physicality, Jolie growls and struts convincingly ("I'm lean!"), developing a barbed camaraderie with the plucky Little, who effortlessly acts everyone else off the screen. He's the one we care about in this sea of tough-talking brutes. Bernthal and Senghore each provide steely tenacity in their separate odysseys. And Hoult and Gillen skilfully give their murderous characters a cool-as-ice attitude, at least until the script turns them into the usual freakishly immortal movie psychopaths.

The plot is tense enough to hold the interest, simply because it's so carefully put together to generate all the usual thrills. But there isn't much suspense, because even with the twisty narrative there's no doubt at all about what has to happen. So it doesn't really matter that the brutal action sequences are muddled. Or that the sentimentality and rah-rah heroism are forced. We keep watching because we've been conditioned to see these movies through to the end, even when they leave us unsatisfied.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 14.May.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall