(KGET) — “Those Who Wish Me Dead” is like an old rug. If you stand back and not examine it too closely, it has enough texture and color to look good. But, a closer examination will show all of the edges that are so unraveled, the true lack of quality becomes apparent.
Angelina Jolie returns to her “Tomb Raider” action ways playing Hannah, a smoke jumper who is dealing with a failed effort to save the lives of three people during a massive fire. Instead of sidelining her, the Forest Service opts to station her in a lonely fire tower where she has endless hours to dwell on her failed past.
That painful pondering is interrupted when 12-year-old Connor (Finn Little) wanders into her life. He has escaped from an attack by two hired assassins – played by Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult. They have killed Connor’s father (Jake Weber) to keep him from revealing forensic accounting discoveries that will bring down some powerful people.
Hannah must conquer her own self-doubts and depend on a few friends to keep Connor safe from the hired killers and a huge fire that is coming their way. It is a chance for some redemption.
The action unfolds against a majestic backdrop. Director Taylor Sheridan has often shown a deep appreciation for the beauty and power of the great outdoors whether it be through his film “Wild River” or the TV series “Yellowstone.” Sheridan even beautifully captures the might of a raging fire to the point “Those Who Wish Me Dead’ may have trouble finding an audience with those in California.
Jolie does a good job handling both the physical and emotional elements of playing Hannah. Part of the ease comes from how “Those Who Wish Me Dead” is neither the most physically demanding nor emotionally compelling project Jolie has ever faced.
The entire movie comes across as a lite version of an action movie from only having two killers as the antagonists to the limited action scenes. It’s the script by Sheridan, Michael Koryta and Charles Leavitt – based on Koryta’s book – that causes the major problems with “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” It is a lazy mix of wild guesses, loose ends and illogical actions bound together by a rather familiar tale.
The entire quest to find the father and son by the killers is based on an assumption made by looking at one photograph. The assassins are skilled but they don’t appear to have the kind of psychic abilities needed to keep the film going. Plus, they are smart enough to create a forest fire that goes exactly in the direction they need.
Then there is the fact that they can commit murders that are discovered by the police but that doesn’t create any kind of massive manhunt. Any law official who finds two people brutally murdered on the side of the road would call for more help.
Having two killers doesn’t create the kind of tension typically associated with this kind of movie. The norm is to send a small army to complete the mission but apparently there were killer cutbacks at the company.
Plus, it is a cheat that most of the tension comes from terrorizing a child and a pregnant woman. That’s just an easy way to make the bad guys seem quickly sinister.
The script is filled with unanswered questions. One of the biggest is the character played by Tyler Perry. He appears and disappears never to be heard from again. That’s OK with a TV show or potential movie franchise but “Those Who Wish Me dead” is neither of those.
The strengths of the film that come from a solid cast and strong cinematography are weakened by writing that is both uninspired and full of holes. How much the film can be enjoyed depends on how much those loose threads can be ignored.
“Those Who Wish Me Dead” opens in theaters May 14 and will be available on the streaming service of HBO Max for 31 days from release.
“Those Who Wish Me Dead”
2 1/2 stars
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Jake Weber, Jon Bernthal, Aidan Gillen, Nicholas Hoult, Medina Senghore, Tyler Perry.
Director: Taylor Sheridan
Rated: R for violence, language