Rated R for language and violence. Like, despite the fact that the movie desperately wants to be edgy, very rarely is the violence all that cringeworthy. If anything, I laughed a bit by the absurdity of the violence. After all, lightning is a common danger apparently in this world. I'm now convinced that I could totally survive a lightning strike based on this film. Rated R...just 'cause.
DIRECTOR: Taylor Sheridan
Alright. Let's get back to business. What's going to be the big return to form to get me writing everyday again? Let's take a look at the notes...
Those Who Wish Me Dead. Geez, come on. The point of my weeklong vacation from writing was to get me excited about writing again. I was going to catch up on some much ignored television. But do you know what? My treadmill died. So I had to run outside all week. I know. These are my problems and people have it way worse. So I didn't even get to watch the TV shows that I was planning on watching. I caught up on podcasts that I didn't even plan on binging. And then I got caught in the old HBO Max trap.
This is the first one to really bite me in the butt. I knew that I wasn't going to get excited for Mortal Kombat. Because I had seen the other entries in the franchise, I also knew that Godzilla vs. Kong was going to be a bit of a stinker. But this is the beginning of the summer film slate. Yeah, I didn't know much about the movie going into it. I just knew that it involved Angelina Jolie and that there was a fire at some point in the movie. Boy, maybe my philosophy of watching every cinema release the day of might be dangerous. After all, when a Netflix original movie drops, I don't immediately lose my mind. Heck, I still haven't seen The Mitchells vs. the Machines, and I hear that is absolutely top notch. But we have the garage movie theater up and running. I thought that I could really get the cinema experience. And I'll even admit, if you are going to watch Those Who Wish Me Dead, which I do not recommend, watch it on a big screen. But this movie was a phenomenal amount of dumb. It was so dumb that when I saw that it was based on a book, I wondered how that was even possible, especially considering that the author of the book helped with the screenplay.
I don't think that anyone really believes that Angelina Jolie would be a fire jumper. She has this long, flammable hair. She's known for being stunningly good looking and for kissing her brother intimately. The former is subjective. But there's nothing that makes this movie seem plausible. I suppose that there's this need in Hollywood to make a fire jumper movie. I can kind of get what the drive behind making a movie like this is. There's something majorly epic behind the concept of a tiny little flammable human juxtaposed with raw destructive energy that is automatically pretty darned rad. But a setting does not a movie make. This movie is so at odds with itself that it really just comes across as silly. I'm going to put myself in the shoes of the author. The author has a decision to make: he really wants to make a story about fire jumpers. Realizing that the natural disaster genre tends to produce a lot of mediocre storytelling, he has infuse another separate story. This is all an attempt to have an epic fight as the woods burn around the protagonist. So how does the author accomplish this? By sheer force of will.
These are two disparate stories. Heck, I'm a Firefly fan, so I get the idea of fusing two ideas together, like the Space Western. But what happens here is the watering down of both storylines. Frankly, the witness on the run story is played out and Those Who Wish Me Dead doesn't really add anything to the conversation. Like Ronin, the movie embraces the MacGuffin as simply that. It doesn't let us know what the MacGuffin is. It doesn't want to to let us know what the MacGuffin is. It knows that it is just going to be a disappointment, so our minds will automatically create an absurdly large threat that the movie couldn't possibly deliver on. There are consequences to this kind of thing too. Because the MacGuffin is intentionally cryptic, so much of the movie has to remain cryptic. There's a completely wasted opportunity here. Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult are two absolutely top notch actors. They are these faceless figures of death that ride through the world, killing people willy-nilly. But because we're not allowed to know anything about these guys, they quickly turn into generic bad guys. The actors behind these roles have the opportunity to create something really special and it just becomes this blah wash of generic villain.
And then there's the fire. The fire is meant to be this epic conclusion. It is a crescendo. It is a force of nature that looms on the horizon. Because Hannah has recurring nightmares about the fire, we know that her redemption comes from the idea that she will save this kid from a fire. But if you saturate the film with fire, the climax will get nerfed. So the movie really tries to do the most absurd thing imaginable: it tries to make Mother Nature a killer on a Final Destination level. I'm pretty sure that God is trying to kill Hannah because she's nearly killed by non-bad guys multiple times throughout the film. I'm going to be very clear: these sequences were added to the film to make it less boring. If Hannah did not get attacked by lightning multiple times, an hour-and-a-half movie would have even less to do until the end. But Hannah, at one point, is in the fire tower. Okay. Hannah figures out that lightning is going to get the tower fer sure [sic]. So she Tomb Raiders her way onto a rope to avoid lightning. I'm pretty sure that people who regularly man fire towers don't have to do this.
Then she gets hit by lightning.
Yup. Hannah gets hit by lightning and just walks it off. Getting hit by lightning is literally the standard we use for how rarely something happens. In the same day, her tower is destroyed by lightning and she is hit by lightning. This doesn't take into account the fact that she encounters a child who is on the run from hitmen and that she has to finally face down something that has so heavily traumatized her in the same day. The odds of all these things happening in a matter of hours is hilarious. Part of me thinks that there might be a justification for all of the lightning hullaballoo. Maybe lightning is really a problem in Montana. I don't know. But it's not like the lightning caused the fire. If this was all about a freak storm interacting with a very specific environment, I might give the movie some leeway. But the lightning is just a wholly different threat than the massive forest fire. The movie had nothing to do for the majority of the film, so it just decided to hit Angelina Jolie with lightning anytime the movie got boring. It was the Nintendo villain that annoyed you as a kid...but as a movie. It's absolutely absurd.
And the funny thing is that the villains, for as evil as they get, only really come across as evil because of the fire that they started. This is how evil they are: they kill a cop. They murder an innocent bystander. They kill a bunch of random people. They try to kill a pregnant woman just because she is what keeps the cop involved. They spend the majority of the movie hunting a kid whose dad they just killed. But the most memorable evil? They just set fire to a massive forest because they wanted a distraction. Come on. While I'm not saying that is completely an impossible concept, I call shenanigans. In fact, that's what this movie is. It's me calling shenanigans over and over again. My wife can attest to this. I kept saying, "No, no thank you. I can't believe you movie." There is so much implausibility for the sake of making a movie that my brain desperately wanted SOMETHING grounded. (Besides Angelina Jolie when she got hit by lightning multiple times). It's just that the movie is so dumb that my eyerolls couldn't get any louder.
Those Who Want Me Dead is such a cool title for such a dumb dumb dumb movie. It's aggressively dumb. It's been a minute since I've seen something this dumb.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.