I've been a movie enthusiast my whole life and been writing movie reviews for over 156 years.
Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt, and Taylor Sheridan
If you watch the new Angelina Jolie thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead (opening at a theater near you or a TV near you with HBO Max) there’s a better than average chance Angelina Jolie will adopt you by the time the credits roll. She’s got six kids of varying colors, heights, and flavors so it’s not likely she’ll notice one more.
It’s Jolie’s return to the screen after that limp Maleficent sequel and director Taylor Sheridan’s (writer of romantic comedies From Hell or High Water and Sicario) follow up to the solid thriller Wind River.
Sheridan seems to specialize in telling stories set in the Midwest, featuring white men over fifty who don’t talk much. What he doesn’t seem to specialize in is female leads. That all changes with the brother-loving Oscar winner’s name above the title.
My point exactly. All white men with grey hair or no hair at all or Chris Pine.
Fair warning. Those of you with sensitivities to fire or British actors with awful American accents may want to pass on this.
For everyone else, it’s this or delayed-by-the-pandemic Saw sequel Spiral.
No one really, as that franchise petered out in the mid-aughties. You’d think they would have figured out that most wish those sequels were dead.
If there’s a vaccine you could take to prevent mediocre movies, you might want to inject yourself now…
Those Who Wish This Synopsis Were Better Titled
Those Who Wish Me Dead (now to be titled TWWMD) opens right in the middle of a fire.
We meet our heroine Hannah (Angelina Jolie). She’s a smoke jumper. Her job is to jump in the middle of fires and fight them from the inside. It’s a dangerous job, but it’s extremely rewarding for Hannah. She gets to save lives and wear yellow outfits.
In the middle of this fire, the wind is quickly shifting. Hannah was told it was going one way, but instead it went the other. Hannah and her crew are forced to flee for their lives.
But Hannah hears some screaming. It turns out three teenage boys are trapped in the middle of the fire. There’s nothing Hannah can do about it.
Then she wakes up in terror.
Hannah has been having this nightmare for about a year and it’s not abating. She walks over to her fridge and there’s bag of fried chicken labeled “The Three Teenage Boys I Couldn’t Save But Also Couldn’t Let Go To Waste As They Were Burning But They Smelled So Good As They Were Being Roasted”.
I was wrong. That’s not chicken. It’s burnt teenage boys.
Hannah takes what looks like an arm and bites into it. Yes, it tastes f*cking delicious, but it also tastes like guilt.
Meanwhile, at a house in another part of the country that doesn’t involve fire, two men that don’t look sinister at all say they’re part of the gas company and have to check for a leak. The owner lets them in. Who would lie about being part of the gas company?
Moments later, the two “Gas company employees” leave the house. Then the house explodes.
I was wrong. This part does involve fire.
The charlatan gas employees’ real names are Jack (Aiden Gillen) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult- X-Men Apocalypse, Mad Max Fury Road). When they’re not pretending to work for the gas company, they’re both professional killers. How professional are they? They’re not even going to take a bite out of the people currently burning in the house. They’ve got other people to kill.
One of those people is named Owen (Jake Weber- Dawn of the Dead, The Beach House). He just saw the exploding house on the news. Owen knows who died. Owen knows they’re coming after him. Owen has a son named Connor (Finn Little). Owen takes off, but not before giving Connor a list of everything he knows.
What does Owen know? Owen is a forensic accountant and essential documents show the numbers don’t add up. Important evil people don’t want other people to know the numbers don’t add up. So they hire Patrick and Jack to blow up houses. Now they’re coming after Owen.
Owen has one shot. He’s friends with a local sheriff named Ethan (Jon Bernthal- The Wolf of Wall Street, Baby Driver) and Owen is betting his and Connor’s life that Ethan can help. It just so happens that Ethan used to date Hannah. Nice how that works out.
Hannah’s working a semi-useless job at a tower as a result of leaving those kids to burn.
Owen’s working on getting to Ethan, but he may have to wait because Jack and Patrick just shot him and the car just rolled off the cliff. Connor is still alive, but he’s running for his life. If only there was someone out there in a stationary job that could possibly help him from getting killed.
This predicament just might work out for Hannah. Because if she can find keep Connor as well as herself from getting killed, then it would totally make up for the other three kids she left to burn and then put in a baggie. Karma is your friend.
What Works With Those Who Wish Me Dead
- The fire scenes are realistically rendered and totally terrifying. You can almost feel the heat from them in a movie theater. From your screen at home it just feels like any other fire you’d see on TV.
- A tense scene involving dueling shotguns becomes the most you’re invested in the movie. You’ve been going through the motions sitting through TWWMD, but now you’re really involved. Don’t worry, it won’t last for long.
What Doesn’t Work With Those Who Wish Me Dead
- There’s a lack of urgency in the way Taylor Sheridan stages most of these scenes. Even though you know where most of the story is going, on a purely entertainment level a good portion of the movie is on autopilot.
- It took three credited writers to give a charismatic performer like Angelina Jolie barely a part to play. She’s solid with what she’s given, and it doesn’t take you too long to realize she’s not given much.
Those Who Wish Me Dead is a movie you wish were better. It’s a passable enough diversion but temper your expectations because the movie’s all smoke and little fire.
Noel Penaflor (author) from California on May 24, 2021:
That would have made a better movie.
Sam Shepards from Europe on May 24, 2021:
Is this the movie where Brad Pitt tries to kill Angelina to get full custody of the kids?
Noel Penaflor (author) from California on May 19, 2021:
Noel Penaflor (author) from California on May 19, 2021:
I kind of wanted the movie to be better.
Caila Daniels from Chicago on May 19, 2021:
I kind of wanted to watch this...