Directed by: Taylor Sheridan
Written by: Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt, Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Jon Bernthal, Jake Weber
Released: May 13, 2021
Grade: B

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Those Who Wish Me Dead serves up a formulaic hero story with not much subtlety or nuance.  Everyone is either 99% good or 99% bad.  A forensic accountant (Webber) has uncovered incriminating information that would rival the stuff Jeffrey Epstein took to his grave.  It implicates high-profile people who will stop at nothing to ensure it is never made public.

These villains aren’t the type to use bribes or light coercion.  They’ve already killed a renowned judge (making it look like an accident) and their next target is the accountant and his 12-year-old son, Connor (Little).  Sensing the danger, they’ve fled to Montana to hide out with a family relative (who just so happens to be a trustworthy local sheriff).

It’s at this point where Hannah (Jolie) becomes of relevance.  She’s a risk-loving smokejumper who, in the midst of bushfire season, has been posted to a remote watch tower described as a “20 x 20 box on stilts with no toilet”.  If we’re being honest, she shouldn’t be there alone.  Hannah recently endured a traumatic work experience and it’s clear, as evidenced by her dreams, that she hasn’t come to grips with what happened.

Hannah stumbles across the scared Connor in the wilderness and, after an outlandishly convenient lightning storm destroys all their forms of communication (the special effects aren’t great), the pair team up to hike back to civilisation and alert news outlets about the bad guys.  I’m not sure why Connor’s dad didn’t do this at the outset… perhaps because it would have been a 10-minute movie otherwise.

It’s rare to be saying this about an action-thriller but the best element of Those We Wish Me Dead are the villains.  The Tyler Perry cameo is a head-scratcher but I enjoyed the perspective of the two experienced hitmen played by Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Nicolas Hoult (The Favourite).  I’ll acknowledge the resources at their disposal are a bit far-fetched (private planes, hacking tech) but they’re smart guys and their detailed strategic discussions make for good listening.  They’re more interesting than the heroes and perhaps that’s why they’re given a similar amount of screen time.

The film boasts a cool local connection with Brisbane-born 14-year-old Finn Little (Storm Boy) showing off his talent alongside Oscar winning star Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted).  It’s a role that requires much emotion and Little shows he’s up to the task.  The man shaping those performances is director Taylor Sheridan – the screenwriter responsible for Sicario and Hell or High Water.  This isn’t as strong as those two outings but it’ll find fans amongst those looking for an entertaining chase movie.

Based on the 2014 novel written by Michael Koryta, Those Who Wish Me Dead could have used more complexity but it’s still a passable action-thriller.