Casting kills Those That Wish Me Dead

Those That Wish Me Dead, 2021, 100 mins, Digital

Oh dear, I’ve copped another one. What you get out of Taylor Sheridan’s disappointing Those That Wish Me Dead mostly depends upon whether you can suspend your disbelief at the casting of the statuesque Angelina Jolie (and her make-up wizards) in the role of a death-baiting gorgeous wildfire firefighter haunted by a terrible guilt complex straight out of Cliffhanger. If, like me, you appreciate the eye-candy but scoff at what is patently ridiculous casting, then the film is sunk right from the start. Maybe the formidable pout of Angelina’s remarkable lips manages to distract one a little from the woefully generic script and surprisingly lacklustre fiery effects, maybe not, but if you’ve seen The Contract or pretty much any other thriller featuring ill-fated assassins hunting down quarry, you’ll think you’ve seen better films like this before, and you have.

Some kid’s dad has done the right thing and has gotten dangerous evidence that wrong-doers want him dead for, but which is oddly never explained – I mean, really, what’s dad done, what’s he found, what’s the evidence, who are the bad guys, what have they done, none of it is explained at all. So anyway, these faceless bad people hire a pair of mind-bogglingly inept killers – they cheat their way into one household, kill their targets but instead of slyly walking away leaving cops clueless they draw newscaster attention to their act by then immediately blowing the house up, said news items promptly alarming kid’s dad he’s next on the list. So kids dad decides its time his kid bunked off school and join him on a race into wild country and the safety of some freinds at a safety retreat, but our two bad guys have flown ahead and are waiting on the road. The trap goes awry, dad gets killed, but the kid goes on the run having pocketed the evidence and having seen the assassin’s faces, the chase is on. Just as well he bumps into death-daring death-wish-baiting unbalanced firefighter Angelina Jolie who can atone for previous failure (blames herself for the deaths of some kids the year before) by saving her new ward from the bad guys. I mean really, its that generic you’ll be rolling your eyes several times.

Formulaic and poorly staged as it is, its the casting that kills it. Angelina looks gorgeous even in her firefighter workwear which still somehow manages to show off her shapely butt and sports bra (really, don’t objectify her?) but I didn’t buy her in this for even a minute. Like the millionaire actors playing carnie bums in Nightmare Alley, this is casting which convinces no-one, surely and I have to wonder if its ever possible for some actors to function in films etc when their real-life fame eclipses their acting fame. Not that many others fair much better- Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, The Punisher, Baby Driver), Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones), alongside Angelina they all suffer from underwritten characters and predictable plotting. Maybe Taylor Sheridan thinks looking good and spouting witty one-liners is enough; well, maybe it is for a Marvel movie. In Sheridan’s defence this film is based on a book, so maybe I should point some blame towards that, but that being said, I can’t believe the book likely contained firecracker dialogue that screams this-might-be-crap-but-its-cool at me all the time, and did I really hear Angelina say “I’m lean, not skinny”? Ugh. I hate all this self-concious movie-cool nonsense (see also Copshop etc). I don’t think film-makers realise that we demand more from our movies than what typifies glossy generic Netflix Originals, and frankly, it may not be one, but Those That Wish Me Dead has Netflix Original all over it.

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