Movie Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead

Suffering from the guilt of being unable to help 3 teenaged boys she came across while fighting a forest fire a year prior, Hannah (Angelina Jolie) finds herself relegated to manning a fire tower in Montana. At the same time, states away, forensic accountant Owen (Jake Weber) sees on the news that his boss has died suspiciously. Since he is sitting on information that some very powerful people would like to keep secret, he decides that he will likely be next, so he takes his son (Finn Little) and flees to Montana to seek refuge with his brother-in-law Ethan (Jon Bernthal) and his wife Allison (Medina Senghore). His suspicions prove correct when assassins Jack and Patrick Blackwell (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult), break into his house, discover that he fled, and all-too conveniently conclude where he is heading. Everyone winds up converging in the middle of a forest fire, and violence ensues.

Having highly enjoyed Michael Koryta’s book of the same name, I had high hopes for this movie, and while it wasn’t an outright disaster, it failed to live up to them. The screenplay by the author with Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond) and director Taylor Sheridan (SicarioHell or High Water) seems to have removed nearly everything that made the book work, and altered other parts in comically odd ways. A sequence involving lightning is almost laughably bad, and serves to really kill any suspense that had built up at that point. And the other lightning bit (yes, there’s more than one), isn’t great either. Additionally, the killer brothers, who were some of the scariest villains I’d ever read, are here portrayed instead as coolly detached, with possible hints of consciences, who also manage to be surprisingly inept at their jobs.

It isn’t all bad though. While the villains felt disappointingly neutered, all of the “good guys” were much better written, and easy to care for. Sheridan’s direction was lacking any real style, but it still got the job done well enough, building towards a somewhat satisfyingly suspenseful ending. It feels like these kind of thrillers haven’t been made much since the late 1990’s, and it was kind of fun to see someone trying the style again, even if it doesn’t really hold up when compared to most of its forebears. I doubt I’ll remember this movie in a few months, but I can’t say I was ever bored when watching it, and that’s something. ★★★ – Sean Farrell

Available on DVD.

Rated R for strong violence, and language throughout.

★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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