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  • Colin Fraser


ONE AND A HALF STARS Montana is set ablaze when a firefighter tries to protect a boy that hitmen want to kill.


Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult

It’s hard to think of a less satisfying and more jumbled action-drama in recent years than Taylor Sheridan’s pulp fiction, THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD. Even the title reflects the awkwardly complicated tone of all that follows. That the film has secured notable box office success says more about a lack of competition than anything else.

The story opens with some kind of misplaced homage to a 1980’s concept movie, the kind of bravado scene that would have starred Tom Cruise. Here Angelina Jolie stands in for the alpha-male as a hard-drinking, Evil Knievel wannabe forest fire fighter who, for kicks, goes para-jeeping to show the boys how hard she is. Credibility takes a back seat and never to be seen again.

Arguably she’s also revealing her character’s need to forget. What we’re not sure, it’s vague and really it doesn’t mater since that’s all but forgotten by the next scene when she meets an injured boy, lost in the forest. His dad’s just been murdered by hitmen, he’s trying to escape and get to the media with a secret their bosses don’t want exposed. Jolie’s need to make good her past sins is activated,

So far, so concept-movie which, in fairness, doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. The disappointment is that Sheridan’s work to date has included truly great films like SICARIO and WIND RIVER plus the magnificent HELL OR HIGH WATER. You have to wonder what kind of financial chaos he’s found himself in that he needs to persevere with forgettable nonsense like this.

For once the hitmen (Nicholas Hoult and GOT’s Aiden Gillen) kick off a massive firestorm in the hope of flushing out the boy, THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD has quickly been reduced to a disaster movie in which the principals run, hide and run again. When it’s not preposterous, it’s unrewarding stuff for all involved, notably the audience who are left to reminisce about how much better everyone has been in just about everything else they’ve done.

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