Review: Big fires everywhere in Jolie thriller 'Those Who Wish Me Dead'
Angelina Jolie stars as a Montana smokejumper in the latest from "Wind River" helmer Taylor Sheridan
A pair of killers is in relentless pursuit of a young boy in "Those Who Wish Me Dead," an action thriller with a neo-Western bend from the modern frontiersman of American action movies, Taylor Sheridan.
Sheridan, the screenwriter of "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water" and the creator of TV's "Yellowstone," tells earthy, grounded stories of hard-working men and women who are often at odds with the power structures in which they're placed. He identifies with blurred lines of morality, and his characters are presented in shades of gray that are more interesting than clear-cut representations of right and wrong.
In "Those Who Wish Me Dead," Angelina Jolie's name is above the title, and she plays Hannah Faber, a smokejumper in Montana who is the toughest, wildest member of a crew full of death-defying sons of guns. When she rips open her parachute while standing tall in the back of a flatbed truck barreling full speed down an open road, it's a macho gut check straight out of "Navy Seals."
Yet Sheridan is more interested in his pair of killers, Jack and Patrick Blackwell, a father-son team of assassins played to the hilt by Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult. They are ruthless killers, but they're not out for the thrill of the hunt: they're paid to do a job, and they're as frustrated with their working conditions as many Americans are in today's marketplace. This is a job for two teams, Jack gripes to his boss (Tyler Perry, in a brief but effective role), but everyone today is facing cutbacks. Even contract killers are told to do more with less.
That grounding in reality helps "Those Who Wish Me Dead" stand out, and it's backed by a solid, straightforward game of cat and mouse. Connor Casserly (Finn Little) has a piece of information that is valuable to some important people (it doesn't matter what it is, and Sheridan doesn't pretend like it does), so he has to go. It's Hannah's job to keep him alive, as the killers pursue and a wildfire rages around them. In Sheridan's world, a wildfire is raging around all of us. It's who you are in the golden glow of the fire that matters.
'Those Who Wish Me Dead'
Rated R: for strong violence, and language throughout
Running time: 100 minutes
In theaters and on HBO Max