Nobody wears a mask in the forest.
At least that’s what jumps out in “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” an action film that shows good guys – and bad guys – racing through burning trees without a way to quell the smell of smoke. They face the inferno head on and, in the case of Angelina Jolie, try to thwart two bad guys who have more ammunition than sense in their quest to find a pre-teen boy.
The bad guys (who wear black suits, drive a black vehicle and stand out more than a politician at a county fair) killed the boy’s father and now want him dead, too, so he doesn’t spill any secrets dad may have slipped. They go on the hunt (never mind they have no knowledge of the place they’re searching) and run into Hannah (Angelina Jolie), a Montana smoke jumper assigned to a watchtower. She spots the trouble, earns the boy’s trust and, soon, they’re on a mission to safety.
Since the two hitmen (who look like something out of “Pulp Fiction”) aren’t willing to back off, she has to take Connor (Finn Little) through burning trees, under water and back into her tower just to escape their wrath.
While director Taylor Sheridan doesn’t explain quite what it was Connor’s dad learned, he does press the idea there was corruption at a very high level, thus: hit men.
Jolie makes like Liam Neeson, stopping at nothing to keep the kid safe. She bonds, too, and has the perfect answer when he asks who’s going to take care of him.
The film features some pretty awesome scenery and a few OK effects. The close encounters with armed men (played by Nicholas Hoult and Aidan Gillen) shouldn’t be as obvious as they are, but they do help introduce a subplot with Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore. She’s pregnant; he’s worried and both have strong survival instincts.
How the two baddies know where to go, who to torment and how you unload a trunkful of bullets without notice is anyone’s guess.
“Those Who Wish Me Dead” (an unwieldy title) looks a lot like an 1980s action film – long on stunts, short on sense. Jolie could do one of these in a long weekend. Even after she gets hit by lightning, she presses on and has a few choice moments with Little. The two work well together and overcome some of those script snags that would trip up lesser performers.
“Those Who Wish Me Dead” isn’t a summer blockbuster, just previews of coming attractions. It whets the appetite for action. It just doesn’t justify it.