The ones who want me dead is a fiery and intense thriller dominated by two spectacularly ruthless villains. Angelina Jolie plays a traumatized smoke jumper who is forced to defend a fleeing boy from elite assassins. Based on the novel by Michael Koryta, the film has a simple plot with a meager portrayal of the characters. But hits like a freight train with strong force, rapid fire rate and skillful guidance from neo-western writer Taylor Sheridan.
In Jacksonville, Florida, a forensic accountant, Owen (Jake Weber), watches the morning news in dire straits. A Fort Lauderdale fire killed a prosecutor and his entire family. He grabs his little son Connor (Finn Little) and runs out of the house. You’re skipping school today and going on a road trip. Meanwhile in Montana, Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie) awakens from a vivid nightmare. As a smoke jumper and experienced forest fire fighter, she was referred to the observation tower after a failed psychological assessment.
Hannah gets drunk with her fire department. She upsets the local sheriff Ethan (Jon Bernthal) with her antics. He is her boyfriend, but only wants to go home to his pregnant wife (Medina Senghore). After a lightning strike on the tower, Hannah tends her wounds in a nearby stream. She discovers a boy covered in blood who is running away from her. When Hannah finally gets Connor to calm down, he tells her the terrible truth. He is chased by men (Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen) who stop at nothing to kill him.
The ones who want me dead never dwells or explains any details of the narrative. It literally starts with a bang and doesn’t stop. The entire story consists essentially of predators hunting prey in the deep forests of Montana and being pursued by a raging fire. Director / co-writer Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or high water, Yellowstone) works permanently in his wheelhouse. His characters live and die with a precise aim. It never snakes around. The reason for the persecution is never explained. This approach works on failure. At the end of the film there is still a lot of the unknown.
The antagonists steal the show from Angelina Jolie. Seasoned character actors Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult are as cold-blooded as they come. I found their relationship dynamics a lot more interesting than Jolie and the boy. The assassins kill with precision and efficiency. Nobody who sees their faces can be left alive. Every encounter with them is fatal. Gillen, famous for his portrayal of Lord Petyr Baelish, also known as Littlefinger game of Thronesanalyzes her bloody deeds like a surgeon. His dispassionate performance and Hoult’s unwavering obedience are fascinating to watch.
The ones who want me dead has special effects that are critical to the action. Fire is both an enemy and a savior. Some scenes are obviously CGI but look real enough to be threatening. Getting stuck between bad guys and a scorching fireball is one hell of a situation. Taylor Sheridan uses great cinematography and editing to help the effects stage an exciting climax.
Angelina Jolie is jumping back on the action car after years of dramatic and kid-friendly fare. The supporting cast are more intriguing here, but she’s still spoiled for choice when it comes to making a solid action film. The ones who want me dead is a production by BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance and Film Rites. It will be released simultaneously in theaters and HBO Max on May 14th by Warner Bros.
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