Those Who Wish Me Dead

Those who wish me dead poster

Those who wish me dead poster

63 / 100

Watchable Minutes : 70 / 100. There’s a good bones to this movie, but there’s nothing to really bring it on home.

Trailer Comparison : The trailer for this movie is interesting. It makes it seem like there’s more drama and introspection by the main character after her apparent failures to fulfill her duty as a smoke jumper. It shows a faster paced movie with more decisive characters, which is something we really don’t get in the actual movie. This trailer was a much better product than what I actually watched.

Move or Film : Those Who Wish Me Dead is an action thriller adapted from the original novel of the same name. The transition from text to screen proved to be subpar at it’s best moments and as I’ve not read the source material, I can only assume any semblance of messaging or theme was lost in translation. Not Sheridan’s best work by any means.

Info : 

  • Run time : 1 hr 40 mins
  • Studio : Warner Bros
  • Director : Taylor Sheridan
  • Where to Watch : HBO Max, Theaters

Summary : 

After witnessing the death of his father in an assault by two hitmen, a young boy named Connor stumbles through the woods seeking shelter and safety. Hannah, an exiled smoke jumper who was banished to a fire watch tower in the middle of the woods for the summer, spots the boy as he emerges from the woods covered in blood. As she takes him into her custody, the boy shares his fathers secrets with her and she realizes that he is in grave danger. The two hitmen become entangled with local law enforcement and in a desperate attempt for cover, light a forest fire in the middle of fire season to cover their tracks and pursue their target. Battling against hitmen and a raging forest fire, Hannah and Connor must learn to trust each other in order to survive against those who wish them dead. 

Review : 

For those of you who read my Wind River review, you might recall how I feel about Taylor Sheridan’s writing and directing abilities. The man can absolutely write a top tier story, but his directing skills leave a lot to be desired. My scores reflect how I feel about his second directorial project. Those Who Wish Me Dead is a half baked, under developed movie that could have been something great with a more experienced director and more use of the original source material. I mentioned above that I haven’t read the source material, but I did do some light research. The book seemed to have been received well, rocking a 3.9 out of 5 on goodreads. But it has a very different story, one that I think would have been better than what we got. 

Hannah Farber is an exiled smoke jumper, who accidentally let three people die during the last fire she was a part of. As her punishment, the park service banished her to a fire watch tower in the middle of the Montana forest for the duration of the summer. During her exile, we get a few moments of introspection where she reveals some plot points and wishes she could have done things differently. She’s holding onto the past too much and it’s effecting her present and future, blah blah blah. Been there, done that. It’s not a new concept for character development. The thing that really irks me is that that’s pretty much the extent of her character development. She grows a little more when she meets Connor, but who wouldn’t? I mean you’d have to be pretty cold and heartless to not help a young boy covered in blood who just stumbled out of some very remote and dense forest. The story then goes through the motions of the hitmen getting closer and starting a fire to cover their tracks. It’s a pretty obvious and very telegraphed attack plan, with nothing much left to surprise the audience. It just seems very bland up to this point. Then there’s the other half of things, with the Jon Bernthal character, Ethan. He’s captured by the two hitmen and is forced to track Connor down. This is the best part of the movie, because it’s the part where Taylor Sheridan let loose and Jon Bernthal let his acting shine. Ethan knew how things would end and he would rather die on his feet as a man, than be shot from behind after selling out the life of a young boy. The emotion and rage that Bernthal delivered was the highlight of the movie, but it wasn’t enough to save it. There’s also the underutilized, shady, and unnamed organization that is helmed by Tyler Perry. I like the idea of an underworld organization in this movie and it would have definitely improved the score if they showed what the organization actually was. The Boba Fett treatment was used with a heavy hand and it didn’t need to be. We know that Connor’s dad was a forensic accountant who discovered something he shouldn’t have, but we don’t get to find out what. Our imaginations are left to wander, but I couldn’t think of anything that would be bad enough to warrant a brutal drive by assassination. It would have been really cool if they showed Tyler Perry in the background or getting ready to interview Connor as the movie ended to show that he was still connected and very much a part of Connor’s future, be it short lived or not. 

The casting of this movie is full of interesting decisions. Angelina Jolie is a fine leading lady in any movie. She definitely still has it and I liked her as Hannah. I just wish she had more development, because I know that she can handle it and could have created a character with more depth. The same goes for Jon Bernthal. He’s a long time favorite of Taylor Sheridan and for very obvious reasons. He’s got the skills necessary to be a dirty copy like in Sicario or The Walking Dead, or the well meaning victim from Wind River. I think he fit right into this movie and filled a gap that was created in the adaption process. The choice to cast Nicholas Hoult as a sidekick to Aiden Gillen’s character was kind of a mistake. I think that Hoult has enough credit on his resume to not play the sidekick. He could have definitely been the main assassin, no side kick necessary. I like Aiden Gillen in most of his other roles, most notably as Little Finger in Game of Thrones, but he just doesn’t carry any sort of malice or real evil in him to be a head honcho assassin. The rest of the cast is pretty so so, aside from Medina Senghore. I thought she did a great job as Allison and could have had a larger role. 

I’ve made it clear how I feel about Taylor Sheridan’s directorial skills, so there’s not much left to say other than I think his future lies more in writing. The overall look of the movie is decent, except for the abhorrent CGI. The fires looked absolutely terrible and the lightning scene was straight up bad. Luckily, there aren’t a ton of scenes were CGI was used and those looked fine and almost pretty at some points. Moving on to the sound design and score, I couldn’t even tell you if there was one. It left no impact on me and didn’t really add anything to the movie. It’s like they just forgot that was part of making a movie. I took off a considerable amount of points for that. 

Those Who Wish Me Dead is a promising concept that failed to deliver. Taylor Sheridan’s latest movie doesn’t hold any of the interest that his earlier works had. It’s a bummer, but if he keeps getting projects, I’m sure that him and Jon Bernthal can put together another interesting project. Maybe let the next one sit for a few more years and I’m confident that he can create something on part with Sicario. 

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