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Those Who Wish Me Dead

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Those who wish to see performances with lead characters
who don't have lips that look inflated beyond safe levels
should look elsewhere for their entertainment

dir: Taylor Sheridan

2021

This film… makes no sense. Angelina Jolie being in this film makes not much sense at all.

She is there, as in, you can’t miss the fact that she’s in the film, but she doesn’t really do much of anything. And there’s so much else happening around her, and being done by other people, that you wonder why we’re spending any time with her and her weird feline features.

So, wow, what a title. Those Who Wish Me Dead seems like it’s been truncated, like it’s missing Can Go Fuck Themselves or something similar. The “Those” of the title are two lethal hitmen played by Aidan Gillen (of Lord Bailish / Littlefinger in Game of Thrones fame) and Nicholas Hoult (of, uh, About a Boy fame?) Both have played monsters in other flicks or shows, but here they play cold government goon sociopaths that have no problems murdering entire families, torturing pregnant women or starting fires that can kill any number of people.

In some ways, because we spend so much time watching them work, it’s like they’re the main characters, it’s just that we really don’t want them to succeed. After killing whole bunches of people, their objective ultimately is to kill a kid that’s running around a forest in Montana.

And if they can kill a whole bunch of other people along the way, they’re cool with that.

They don’t start the fire in the forest to kill the kid, but to distract law enforcement, which, I dunno, doesn’t seem very bright. Almost everything they do, which is intended to cover up some government shenanigans, makes it seem like it would just make government shenanigans even more obvious. The fire, I would have thought, would just bring more attention to what they’re doing. Killing all these people in ultra-professional-killer ways would just make it look like a bunch of government goons killed a bunch of people to cover something up, not, like, the opposite of that.

But what would I know. The fire at least gives Angelina Jolie an excuse to shout “Fire, Fire!” in a not-at-all crowded theatre, and to point her pouty lips at the conflagration’s wall of flame.

It’s…a bit harrowing to watch massive, thankfully CGI fires after the worst bushfire season in our fledgling colonial nation’s history. Last summer’s fires, which went from September to February, stretched across this wide brown nation, and I wish I would never see anything like it ever again, and yet fires rage across the globe currently.

If only we could blame those fires on over-zealous hitmen, or Jewish Space Lasers, rather than the more obvious self-inflicted lunacy of climate change.

Or we could blame Angelina Jolie. She clearly blames herself. The tortured backstory of this particular hero is the same as the tortured backstory of every hero in every other action movie: a while back something happened outside of her control, and kids died, and now she drinks and hurts herself just to feel something, damn it!

The kid running away from the fire and the killers, and the killing fire, bumps into Jolie’s character of Hannah, who’s up a watchtower, who’s meant to be watching out and reporting on fires.

She fails entirely at that, because a lightning strike ruins all her communications equipment, and she doesn’t have a mobile, or mobiles don’t work out there. But she can finally redeem herself by protecting the kid, can’t she?

Jolie has done action-y roles before, but other than the fight she has with one of the assassins at the end, which was a stunt person anyway, she doesn’t really bring much of anything to this performance other than her cheekbones. There are many scenes of just her face as she looks to the left or right, to the distance, wistfully. But as to what she brings to the film other than her name on the marquee, I am at something of a loss to identify. She can’t be hurting for cash.

She and the kid have a weird, awkward kind of energy, as she tries to be spiky and odd which is a bit confusing to the kid, who has recently seen things no kid should see, and suffered losses no-one should experience. The kid, Conner (Finn Little) is fine in the role, as a moppet with curly hair and eyes often on the verge of tears.

The real stars of this show, even though no-one else is ever going to say it, are Jon Bernthal as a deputy sheriff, and his heavily pregnant wife Allison (Medina Senghore), who run a rural survival camp for teens. The kid is the sheriff’s nephew, but it’s not like they’re going to get to spend a lot of quality time together with these kill crazy government assassins on their arses.

Jon Bernthal is great in everything, but it’s especially enjoyable to see him in something where he’s not playing a murderous psychopath. But the woman playing his wife! She’s amazing. Despite being heavily pregnant, she’s the only one who gives these bastards what for, and does everything she can not only to save herself and her unborn, but her husband too.

She even rides a goddamn horse, which wouldn’t be easy even not pregnant in the middle of the night and in the middle of a fucking forest fire.

Despite the fact that it sounds like an action-y kind of flick, it’s not really that much of an action-y flick, but I didn’t mind it that much regardless. None of the plotting really makes sense but I did not care, because the momentum of the flick keeps things chugging along and helps to paper over the flaws in the screenplay. It was, for me, the perfect kind of dumb flick to watch on a Thursday night, when I am burned out emotionally and intellectually from a week of working, and just want to watch things blow up or burn and people deliver one-liners with a minimum of feeling.

Again I have no idea why Jolie is here. You could edit her out of the movie and no-one would notice. Her job, no shit, of being a smokejumper, as in, firefighters trained to parachute into inaccessible areas to fight forest fires, doesn’t even factor into the action. At no stage does she save the day by parachuting into or out of danger, and for that I am bitterly disappointed.

But other than that, she can occupy space in relative space time; she has mass and density; light reflects off of her so she’s visible to the human eye; she can use her vocal chords in such a way that sounds are produced and people can understand those sounds, and she can wear clothes, so she fulfills all of the requirements of an actor in a flick called Those Who Wish Me Dead when you have zero expectations and you’re nearly out of wine.

7 times Those Who Wish Me Dead will eventually get their wish, but not today, out of 10

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“I watched my mother die of cancer.”
- “It is impossible to feel sorry for myself around you.” – same here - Those Who Wish Me Dead

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