Those Who Wish Me Dead delivers a heartfelt story packed with tons of great action. It’s an effective throwback to older action films but does feel slightly unfocused at times with its narrative. The film is saved by its stellar cast, gripping story, and score that feels like a character itself. Those Who Wish Me Dead may not live up to the backwoods adventure it’s based on, but it’s still a fun thriller that can pull at your heartstrings thanks to the creative minds that came together for this film.
This film, while not offering many surprises along the way, stays strong by delivering a great bond between two people looking for peace. A film such as this is right up the director’s alley too, given he has worked on similar projects in the past and directed them to perfection. Those Who Wish Me Dead is directed by Taylor Sheridan and written by Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt, and co-written by Sheridan. The film stars Finn Little, Jake Weber, Tyler Perry, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Medina Senghore, Jon Bernthal, and Angelina Jolie. It centers on Connor Casserly (Little), a young boy who is being hunted by assassins after his father (Weber) is killed. Connor finds an ally in Hannah Faber (Jolie), a smoke jumper struggling to forgive herself for a forest fire accident that resulted in the death of three boys.
Based on Koryta’s novel, Those Who Wish Me Dead delivers a visceral 90’s style action treat. The writing for this film succeeds for the most part, and minor details for both Connor and Hannah make them a likable pair to follow throughout the film’s short runtime. Hannah’s struggles have caused her to flirt with death, she performs risky maneuvers, has a drinking problem, and suicidal tendencies. Connor has been tossed into the lion’s den after his father’s death, while he tries to avoid the assassins, he ponders his future because without his father his next steps are uncertain. The trust that grows between these two is the heart of this film, and it’s wonderful to witness the look of uncertainty they both have after initially meeting turn to full-fledged trust over time. Hannah is being given a chance to redeem herself, as she does everything in her power to keep Connor safe from the two assassins.
Those Who Wish Me Dead stumbles a bit with its narrative at times when it juggles trying to develop both Connor and Hannah. The film starts being about Hannah, but then it shifts to Connor, so when they come together the focus becomes jumbled. While the events on-screen lend to both character’s growth, it would have been great to get more focus on one particular person. The ambiguous nature of the two assassins and what they are trying to prevent is a nice touch. Though it does seem overly vague sometimes, and the emotional subplots amongst the two leads and the side characters keep this film from growing dull. Jolie’s return to action is great overall, her motherly nature towards this scared boy is felt through the screen during all of their interactions.
Little’s performance as Connor is terrific as well and his expressions throughout the film assist in the viewer wanting to see him make it out alive. Sheridan’s direction here makes up for the film’s shortcomings in its character development, as he takes you on this emotionally exhausting ride that starts at a slow pace before maintaining its edge of your seat adventure feeling. The film is shot wonderfully and accompanied by Brian Tyler’s magical score. Tyler’s score swallows the scenery, raises the stakes, and builds on the emotional tale being told on screen.
Those Who Wish Me Dead stays afloat despite its narrative hiccups and delivers a solid action film. The performances from Little and Jolie will be more than enough reason to endure its initial slow start. Sheridan’s previous works certainly opted for more character development, but his direction here filled in those gaps and allowed the film to end up on the positive side. Those Who Wish Me Dead probably won’t impress those who have seen countless films like it, but it’s still an effective thriller that is carried by two fantastic lead performances.