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Those Who Wish Me Dead

***
2021

‘…Those Who Wish Me Dead just about lands as entertainment, thanks to an empathetic lead from Jolie…’

Is it time for a campaign for better McGuffins? We surely deserve better that the lame duck vanilla variety featured in Angelina Jolie’s new thriller. A forensic accountant discovers something about someone, and two hit-men arrive to dispatch him. What did he discover? Arizona’s election results? Joe Biden’s list of muppets to suppress? A recipe for egg salad? We’ll never know, because the McGuffin is left so vague, it could be just about anything. It also seems well out-dated that Jolie has such faith in the media’s outreach that if she can just deliver the accountant’s son to a local tv crew, his broadcast will immediately resolve whatever problem is out there. In this and many other aspects, Those Who Wish Me Dead feels very much as out of date as the last turkey in the shop.

Based on a book by Michael Koryta and directed by Taylor Sheridan, this is very much a Jolie action vehicle, but not as much fun as the rather more kenetic Salt. Jolie plays a smoke jumper, trained to rescue the unwary from rolling forest fires, but traumatised by her own experiences. Hannah Faber now sits atop an observation tower, and that lonely position puts her in the path of a pursuit of a young boy Connor (Finn Little) who is on the run from a fatal car crash. Faber uses her skills to help him elude two men-in-suits (Nicholas Hoult and Aiden Gillen), but can she rely on the support of her ex Ethan (Jon Bernthal), now a deputy Sherriff and his pregnant wife Allison (Medina Senghore)?

Is it OK to feel less than enthused with Taylor Sheridan’s output of late? Sure, Sicario and Hell and High Water were good, but he doesn’t bring much to Koryta’s book other than his usual overcooked homilies about survival and tracking. Those Who Wish Me Dead relies on exhausted tropes about ordinary people being about to outfight trained hit-men, and although the firey finale is well done, too many of the Montana forest visas look as fake as the plot contrivances. TV has stolen the art of detail from cinema when it comes to thriller complexity, and ventures like this seem unlikely to restore it with the kind of hokey ‘will this do?’ tv movie plotting displayed here.

Having said all that, Those Who Wish Me Dead just about lands as entertainment, thanks to an empathetic lead from Jolie, and a few gut-punch moments of violence which keep the audience engaged. But the lack of specifics mark Sheridan’s film as a time-passer, with no great commitment from cast or crew, and tiresome, bickering hitman clichés to the fore. With this, Sicario 2 and Without Remorse of late, it feels like Sheridan needs to either get hard or go home; these films feel like blurred photocopies of his early work, and the comparison isn’t favourable.

Those Who Wish Me Dead is out now in UK and US cinemas, and on HBO MAX in the US

 

 

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  1. The incompetence of the hitmen broke this for me. I couldn’t help but laugh, as they seemed to solve each problem they ran into with a bigger problem that, long-term, would only draw even more attention to them. Maybe they’re better in the book, but I couldn’t take them seriously as a threat.

    I thought Jolie’s performance worked, but she just wasn’t given much to do. That’s true of most of the cast — there’s a lot of talent here, it’s just nowhere near maximized.

    • But you’re so right to highlight the hitmen, and Aiden Gillen has never quite shrugged off his comic performance in Queer as Folk in the Uk. These guys were like Dumb and Dumber for sure, and easily outsmarted by just about everyone they meet. Vicious but completely incompetent. Jolie papers over the cracks, but there’s some hokey bad-guys here for sure.

  2. I wasn’t so convinced by Jolie, feeling she turned on the tears too quickly and too often, and it seemed to take forever for the two storylines to merge. Something about the teeth of taller of the two hitmen struck a memory chord and I was surprised this was cute Nicholas Hoult gone rogue. I saw this on the big screen, in fact I’m just back from my weekly cinema outing, and the movie took on a different sensibility I guess than from a streaming experience because the fire was immense on the big screen. I also felt too much of the set-up indicated what was going to happen – neither the pregnant woman nor the boy were ever going to die and I did wonder about a six-month pregnant woman riding for miles on a horse. Also, the lightning seemed helluva convenient, producing the isolation required for an old-style disaster picture and also giving Jolie some physical grief to add to her mental struggle.

    • Reading this is like a list of the contrivances I found myself calling out. Angelica has no transport? The radio knocked out by lightening? The pregnant woman who knew how to contrive a blow-torch that a professional assassin couldn’t imagine? The final burst of fire looked great on the big screen, but too many shots of the tower looked fake; the interior and the exterior didn’t match. Still, for better or worse, a proper studio movie after months of making do with little…

  3. Sorry I’m a bit late today, stuff happens. What have I learnt today?
    1) The Muppets should be banned
    2) Bald is beautiful
    3) Fraggle is desperate for you to comment on her film blog
    4) I am not a fascist
    5) I’m great at making lists
    6) And I will not be watching this.

  4. You didn’t mention Wind River (2017) in your analysis of Sheridan’s writing since Hell or High Water which seems a bit odd as he directed that film as well as writing it. I thought it was pretty good. Not perfect but better than most Hollywood films these days. I’m not going back into cinemas yet but I might look out for this new film later in the year. What’s odd about Those Who Wish Me Dead is that it is supposed to be set in Montana but was shot (according to IMDb) in New Mexico. Wind River was set in Wyoming and shot in the Native American reserve where the action takes place. I prefer films sot in the right location.

    • I was pretty engrossed in Wind River, and it should have done better, but my recollection is that it was sacrificed on the altar of Harvey Weinstein and suffered from being MeToo-ed, somewhat unjustly. I think the rape scene took me out of that film, but it certainly had atmosphere and a driving storyline. I think we’re firmly on the same page with regards to location; films should be shot on as close to the right location as possible IMHO. Angelina’s viewing tower looks like something from Star Wars in this film, and that’s a big problem when the whole vibe is supposedly outdoors-y. With the talent involved, this film is worth seeing, but still not quite good enough for that pedigree.

  5. I would say that going before cameras was a smart move on the part of the characters. Once you spill the beans to the world an untimely death becomes instantly suspicious and would create more problems than it solves.

    • That used to be the case, but in the fake news era, who would believe a kid on cable news?

  6. I’vve read a slightly more sympathetic review of this one, and as both of you have said it has an entertainment value on it I will see it, I like Jolie.

  7. What?!? Muppets are being systematically silenced and suppressed? What evil mastermind could even THINK to do something so dastardly?

    I think I’m going to have to call out of work today, as this is just too big a shock to my system.

    What’s worse, I bet that evil mastermind is trying to do it while speaking french!

    FREEEEEEEEEEEEEDOM! (fries)

    • Very much the calm and dignified answer I expected when I dropped that line it.
      Wouldn’t bother with an inquiry into that January thing, but we HAVE to protect the muppets!

      • Muppets are the bedrock of our global entertainment. Without them, it’s just a bunch of trashy actors mailing in sad performances while directors just eat cheese and say things like “I am le tired”. Don’t you understand that movies themselves are under threat here? They could vanish!

        Oh wait, why am I thinking that is a bad thing? 😉

  8. This sounds really dumb. Sheridan’s script for Sicario: Day of the Soldado was terrible. I think we may have seen the best he has to offer already.

      • And he probably got too much credit for Sicario too. Good movie, but I give that to Villeneuve, Deakins, Jóhannsson, Blunt, Brolin and del Toro. I didn’t think there was anything special about the script.

        • Much as it pains me to agree with you about anything, I think on the balance of probabilities, you might be right. Oh well, ten years of cliches about hunting and tracking ahead….

            • Well, it looks good on Telly Savalas. No, your mind control experiements have failed, Mr Marvo, not going along with your big lie.

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