I had high hopes for Those Who Wish Me Dead. It’s directed and co-written by Taylor Sheridan, the man responsible for some of the best films of the past decade. It promised a return to form for Angelina Jolie, who certainly needs it after a dour run of glossy Disney vehicles and well-meaning-but-unbearably-somber dramas. Last but not least, it boasts a stellar ensemble cast, featuring Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, Jake Weber, and, ahem, Tyler Perry. My hopes were crushed within the first several minutes of the all-over-the-place narrative. Sheridan – a screenwriter known for his mastery of plot structure and dialogue – seems to be torn here, jumbling multiple undeveloped plot threads into one off-putting mess.
Jolie sleepwalks through her role as Hannah, a Montana smoke jumper grieving the loss of three young lives she failed to rescue from a fire. Her grief is portrayed via numerous flashbacks, with the actress gazing mournfully into the distance, wiping tears off her chiseled cheekbones. Hannah’s redemption comes in the form of Connor (Finn Little), a 12-year-old-boy escaping the wrath of a mega-corporation, whose origins remain dubious. The only thing revealed is that Finn’s forensic accountant father, Owen (Jake Weber), discovered some incriminatory sh*t that involves the government, and now he’s dead. Finn’s being hunted by two merciless killers, Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) and Jack (Aidan Gillen).
“… Hannah’s redemption comes in the form of Connor, a 12-year-old-boy escaping the wrath of a mega-corporation…”
No Country for Old Men this is not, although it sure tries its very best to resemble the Coen brothers’ classic, elegiac thriller. Where that was minimalistic and subtle, Those Who Wish Me Dead is blatant and obvious. The Coen brothers spoke weighty truths about humanity’s eternal battle of good vs. evil, about new generations replacing and facing off against the stalwarts. Sheridan… well, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what the f*ck he’s trying to say here. Keep going, don’t kill yourself, for you shall find redemption eventually? Could it really be that simplistic?
The action-drama does not even live up to that other film it so closely resembles: Joel Schumacher’s infamous The Client. As flawed as that film was, it had the decency to flesh out the central relationship between Susan Sarandon’s sharp Reggie and Brad Renfro’s resourceful Mark, as well as reveal the exact nature of their government-level deceit. It’s jaw-dropping how slapdash Sheridan’s approach is to what’s supposed to be the heart and soul of the story – the bonding between Hannah and Connor. The characters are so cardboard, it’s a wonder they don’t catch fire.
"…I had high hopes..."