They Who Wish Me Dead features a great short thriller, the new feature from writer-director Taylor Sheridan, who created the TV series Yellowstone, directed the excellent Wind River, wrote Sicario: Day of the Soldado and Tom Clancy’s Last Repentance, and Otherwise articulates the harsh American existentialist mindset last seen in John Milius’ Hollywood blockbusters.
The nifty thriller at the heart of They Who Wish Me Dead involves a pair of big-city mob hitmen (X-Men’s Nicholas Hoult and Game of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen) to kill a district attorney and his assistant Owen (Jake Weber). Is. The DA’s office discloses classified Mafia information, and for reasons of convenience of the plot, retain it until they can be disposed of.
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But Owen also gives Mafia intel in the form of a scribbled note to his son, Connor (Finn Little), and tasked him with traversing the dry forests of Montana after cutting him down to inform the media. And as the hitmen track the young boy through the woods, they run away from their uncle Ethan (John Bernthal) and Aunt Alison (Medina Senghor), who happen to run the jungle survival school.
Half Wish Me Dead is a kind of reverse delivery, where the bad guys are brutal big city killers, and we root for rugged mountain survivalists to take them down. And the scenes between Gillan and Hoult and Bernthal and (especially) Senghor pay off really well.
But it’s only half of the people who want me to die. The second part features Hannah, a Montana Forest firefighter played by Angelina Jolie, who struggles to relive memories of burning a family while tracking down a potential fire from an isolated watchtower.
Hannah has nothing to do with the thriller fiction here, but she meets the young boy in the woods and offers him some help. The pair walk up to a wildfire started by Hitman as a distraction, walk away from it, and then run back into the fire from the bad guys as Hannah confronts her fears. Praise.
Many have criticized Jolie’s mere presence here, which looks like she could have walked off the runway and into wildfire. But Jolie is excellent, and despite a pair of scenes of supernatural flexibility, she really sells the characterization. The real problem is that this main character has little to do with the story of the people who want me dead, and it seems like an afterthought.
Unlike something along the lines of a cliffhanger, where the action hero takes the bad guys and makes it personal, Jolie’s character is just an innocent bystander trying to survive, barely registering on the bad guys’ radar. .
The crazy thing is that People Who Want Me Dead already has a dire heroine who fits into the story as Senghor’s pregnant Allison. She’s the one who takes it to the bad guys and makes it gruesomely personal, and the scenes between Senghor and Gillan are easily the best in the film.
They’re not the intense wildfire movie sold by Who Wish Me Dead promotional material — just see Under the Brave for that film — and it often feels at odds with itself under two converging narratives. But it’s an undeniably well-crafted short thriller written by writer-director Sheridan that’s taut and exciting with first-rate performances, and a smattering of existential cinema to satisfy a mild craving. Good enough piece.
2021, They Who Wish Me Dead, Taylor Sheridan, Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Aiden Gillan, Jon Bernthal, Jake Weber, Finn Little, Medina Senghor, Tyler Perry, Boots Southerland, Tory Kittles, James Jordan, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, Howard Ferguson Jr., Ryan Jason Cook, Laura Niemi, Michael Coryta, Charles Levita