‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’ Flames Out

Angelina Jolie jumps smoke in an overwrought Taylor Sheridan forest-fire noir drama

I saw the Those Who Wish Me Dead movie. Angelina Jolie plays a Montana “smoke jumper,” kind of a Navy SEAL of firefighting, who has recently gone through a Bad Trauma. After falling out of a fire tower during a lightning storm, she runs into a kid in the woods, who gives her a chance at redemption. This kid is the son of a forensic accountant in Florida who possesses knowledge of some sort of Big Conspiracy that seems pretty serious, along the lines of Jeffrey Epstein’s Sex Island. Considering the movie revolves entirely around this plot, it would have been nice to have some more details.

★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Taylor Sheridan
Written by: Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt, Taylor Sheridan
Starring:   Angelina Jolie, Aidan Gillen, Nicholas Hoult, Finn Little, Jon Bernthal
Running time: 100 min

But instead, we learn nothing, and see two ruthless hit men pursuing this kid with machine guns. The fact that Aidan Gillan and Nicholas Hoult, two good actors who are fairly emo, play these hit men gives Those Who Wish Me Dead an accidentally campy vibe.

Taylor Sheridan directed and co-wrote Those Who Wish Me Dead. Sheridan has produced, among other things, the movie Sicario and the TV series Yellowstone, as well as the film-nerd-loved Hell Or High Water, which earned Jeff Bridges an Oscar nomination. He specializes in a sort of Outdoor Noir, where a hard-nosed protagonist fights against extremely bad people laden with massive arsenals. Those Who Wish Me Dead is kind of a summer-camp version of his film Wind River, in which Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen did non-Avengers battle against assassin oil-camp workers in a near-Arctic setting.

Those Who Wish Me Dead
Angelina Jolie, the Top Gun of the Montana woods, in ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead,’ directed by Taylor Sheridan.

By those standards, Angelina Jolie fits the Taylor Sheridan bill of lading in Those Who Wish Me Dead. Jolie, Lara Croft herself, is an original Badass Boss Babe of modern movies. She jumps around, hacks with blades, disinfects her own festering wounds, and looks great doing it. She’s an Oscar-winning movie star with a capital M, and she doesn’t embarrass herself in these woods. The kid, played by Australian actor Finn Little, cries a lot, and who can blame him given the circumstances. But at least he gets to go swimming with Angelina Jolie.  Jon Bernthal, the Punisher himself, gets a lot of screen time as a tough-ass sheriff, as does Merinda Senghore as his pregnant wife. She rides a horse, runs a survival school, and totally wastes a dude with flame retardant. Their characters are corny, but at least they get some action scenes.

If you couldn’t tell, this is an absurd movie. It’s ostensibly about smoke jumping and forest fires. Though the fire scenes provide a tense and visually involving backdrop, they’re really just a prop for our heroes constantly trying to escape Bad Men. Those Who Wish Me Dead teases Jolie’s camaraderie with her fellow smoke jumpers, setting up a kind of Top Gun-like situation, or at least a Backdraft-like situation. But it keeps tossing that interesting sociological stuff aside in favor of its semi-vague crime plot and endlessly ridiculous scenes with Gillan and Hoult on their yuppified boy-hunt, like Anton Chigurh without the mystery and swagger. If you promise us Angelina Jolie fighting fires in the first act, that promise had better go off in the third. And it doesn’t.

This concludes my review of the Those Who Wish Me Dead movie.


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Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 12 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer for both film and television, Neal has written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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