Tropic Sprockets / Those Who Wish Me Dead

By Ian Brockway

Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) directs “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” a percussive, anxious and suspenseful thriller. The narrative, to its credit, is influenced by the gutsy hard-boiled narratives of Cormac McCarthy and the Coen Brothers. Blood, suffering, guilt and gunfire feature prominently, but the film is satisfyingly filled with apprehension and catharsis. Bolstered by solid lead performances, the narrative has an appealingly retro Saturday Matinee feel.

Two brother sociopaths Jack (Aiden Guillen) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) scarily detonate a house killing the family inside. The family had ties to the government and financial sectors.

Owen (Jake Weber) is a single father who works for the murdered family as a forensic accountant. Rightly thinking that the killers are after him, he takes off with his young son Connor (Finn Little). The anxiety is palpable as Owen passes each car. The camera moves along with forbidding scary music and any second might be Owen’s last.

The hitmen set up a diversion on the rural road, and fire upon the car. The child is forced to hide out, hopefully invisible to the sadistic pair. Before he breathes his last, Owen tells him to tell the media.

While he is running, Connor runs into Hannah (Angelina Jolie) a tough cat-like firefighter with PTSD. Despite a rough start, Hannah agrees to help Connor. The assassins know about the young boy.

While much of the film is formulaic, the villains are visceral and scary and Jolie has just the right mixture of maternal spirit, empathy and a vengeance for those that do evil, to make it an “edge of your seat” thrill. Jolie has a pulpy role, the kind that Mel Gibson made famous—a protector battered, broken and bloody. Here Jolie makes it her own.

Medina Senghore has a great fight scene as a mother holding her own with gusto, and Finn Little will make you root for the resourceful Connor.

While “Those Who Wish Me Dead” has clear cut definitions of good and evil, the bad guys have a theatrical menace which makes for entertaining tension. Viewing Angelina Jolie’s suffering goodness (with accents of Alan Ladd in Shane), your eyes are thrown back to the western thrillers of the 1950s and the 80s with Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood, or Gibson.

In watching this indestructible heroine defend her young friend as she stands torn, sweaty and black and blue, everything old is new again.

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