THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD, US, 2021. Starring Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Jon Bernthal, Medina Senghore, Jake Weber, Tyler Perry, Tory Kittles. Directed by Taylor Sheridan. 100 minutes. Rated MA (Strong violence and coarse language).
Certainly an arresting title. And it is interesting with the opening of the film to identify the ‘Those’ of the title, two respectable-looking but deadly, sadistic hitmen. The ‘Me’ of the title is a 12-year-old boy – Connor (Little).
The tone for the thriller is set as the two assassins, allegedly working for a finance company, insinuate themselves into a mansion – which then blows up. The motivation is revealed in short order; an accountant has exposed irregularities and the corporation bosses are out to eliminate him. The accountant is Owen (Weber) and his son, Connor. Little, from Brisbane, and the star of the remake of Storm Boy, is very effective as Connor. Little has to work with Angelina Jolie and, in a sense, bear the burden of the pursuit drama – which he does.
But, to make the thriller more intriguing, it is set in Montana. Almost 70 years ago there was an action thriller called Red Skies of Montana, a drama that dealt with the hazardous work of the US Forest Service’s paratroop firefighters, and in Those Who Wish Me Dead, the awesome destructive power of fires once again feature. We are introduced to the firefighters, especially the fire jumpers who parachute into dangerous situations. The old brigade stand around yarning with all kind of banter – focusing on Hannah (Jolie), tough, hard-working, but tormented by memories and nightmares of a past episode, where her misjudgment resulted in the deaths of three young boys.
The other important characters in the film are the local sheriff and his wife, pregnant wife (Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore).
When Connor arrives in her remote territory, bloodied and traumatised, Hannah leaves the self-imposed solitary confinement of her watchtower high above the Montana wilderness to take the boy to safety, unaware of the real dangers they face of two relentless killers hunting Connor from one direction and a massive fiery blaze coming straight for them.
The hitmen are particularly alienating. Gillen is the ruthless older brother, no compunction whatsoever. Nicholas Hoult (once a chubby boy in About a Boy, now and gangly six foot three) looks as if he ought to have compunction – but does not. The pursuit is relentless, even involving the sheriff, a confrontation with his wife, who can be as tough as the men.
The film has been written and directed by Taylor Sheridan who has a strong reputation for action films in the rather wilder states of the union, Wind River and Hell or High Water.
It is easy to note some implausibility in the plot development and detail, but that is not the point – the point is a night out for an exciting action show, which it is.
Released 13 May
Peter Malone MSC is an associate Jesuit Media