Dame Angelina Jolie (that still sounds weird) plays a shit-talking, risk-taking smokejumper (ie. a parachuting firefighter) in Taylor Sheridan’s latest thriller.
We can continue to count on Sheridan to deliver solid wilderness-set neo-Westerns, whether in the desert (Hell or High Water), snow (Wind River) or now a forest, where he ditches his usual seriousness to go on a Jolie. The plot, in which our hero protects a boy (Finn Little) from a pair of pyromaniacs (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult) for reasons that do not matter, is full of clichés and coincidences but works as a Cliffhanger-style ’90s throwback (which I’ll take over ’80s nostalgia any day).
Where the Sheridan-penned Sicario pitted baddies against baddies, this is basically a heroes and villains type deal, with a feminist angle derived from films like Aliens and Mad Max: Fury Road (a much better showcase for Hoult). Jolie is her usual unconvincing yet charismatic self, but her chemistry with the young Little fails to spark, and one wishes action movies would give their women a route to salvation that doesn’t involve children.
Based on Michael Koryta’s novel, Those Who Wish Me Dead ignites in fiery action that pulls few punches and leaves Jolie resembling Winona Ryder at the end of Heathers. It may lack the political heft of Sheridan’s earlier work but succeeds as a straight-ahead action flick with some decent characters, barbed dialogue and a point of view, even if the material proves too pulpy to truly catch fire.