Since scripting the thematically engaging but derivative drug thriller Sicario, Taylor Sheridan has gradually positioned himself as an action filmmaker with something interesting to say. Perhaps because the source material for Those Who Wish Me Dead is not his own, Sheridan seems unsure of how to approach the material and pretty much settles into full-bore action mode, allowing the story’s sentimental highlights to get away from him and inadvertently dominate the proceedings. With Angelina Jolie providing the requisite star power he probably felt he could let her handle whatever emotional subtexts the script offered, but Jolie appears content to cruise through the story with little real engagement.
For what it’s worth, the setup seems way outside Sheridan’s wheelhouse. Before we even get an idea about Jolie’s main character, we have to sit through three action set pieces that require fairly detailed exposition for the rest of the movie to make any sense. Essentially, an accountant in Florida (Jake Weber) who uncovers the shady finances of a crooked politician is forced to flee his destroyed home with his young son (Finn Little) when the politician’s factotums’ sick a pair of hit men (Aidan Gillen, Nicholas Hoult) on him. They make it as far as Montana, where the accountant plans to hole up with his brother-in-law, Ethan (Jon Bernthal), a local police chief, but the bad guys get to him first. The kid escapes in the wilderness where he becomes the prey of the hit men. Ethan, expecting the boy to show up, recruits Hannah (Jolie), a “fire jumper” who has been demoted to lookout duty due to her alcoholism and failure to save two children during a recent blaze. Inevitably, the boy and Hannah cross paths just as the hit men are closing in, and by that point you may be itching for some real excitement if you aren’t already confused by all the characters and subplots the story has thrown at you.
Jolie has proved her mettle in action movies before, but Sheridan gives her almost no opportunity to make an impression, and once the bad guys start a fire to flush the boy out and distract the constabulary, Hannah has to pivot between hard-ass professionalism and the kind of empathetic maternalism that will redeem her as both a woman and a member of society. The action is exciting as far as those things go, but you can sense a certain impatience on Sheridan’s part with how busy the story is. In the end, it just doesn’t feels like the kind of action movie he’s good for.
Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Shinjuku Piccadilly (050-6861-3011), Human Trust Cinema Shibuya (03-5468-5551).
Those Who Wish Me Dead home page in Japanese
photo (c) 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment