Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead
If you cut your teeth on the sort of high-concept action movies Renny Harlin and Jan de Bont used to crank out in the ’90s and you miss that style of picture, oh boy, do I have some good news for you. Those Who Wish Me Dead—available now on HBO Max for a limited time, synced with its theatrical run—is like a full-blown nostalgia bomb that plays by all of the same rules as “classics” like Dante’s Peak, Daylight, Twister, etc.
To even begin to attempt to recount the plot would make me sound like a raving lunatic, but in short: The story revolves around a pair of assassins hired to kill anyone who knows anything about some sort of conspiracy or another involving all manner of government officials and law enforcement. The two are hot on the trail of a forensic accountant who uncovered the
conspiracy, who’s on the run with his son and attempting to find refuge with family members in Montana—respectively, a sheriff’s deputy and a proprietor of a wilderness survival school. And then there’s Angelina Jolie as a wildland firefighter who’s seen some stuff, man. I’m not even going to bother trying to tell you how she factors into all of this.
As you might imagine from all of the above, the script is a hot mess that manages to be simultaneously nonsensical and wholly predicable, which is quite the feat. Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Koryta, who shares screenplay credit, the plot is a rapid-fire succession of improbable (bordering on impossible) coincidences that quickly become easy to suss out if you simply ask yourself, “What’s the absolute laziest path from this plot point to the inevitable action-packed conclusion?”
That’s not to say that Those Who Wish Me Dead is bad for what it is. It’s perfectly average, in fact. It’s fine, really. I’m not asking for the last 100 minutes of my life back or
WISH ME DEAD AT A GLANCE
This throwback actioner provides 100 minutes of mindless entertainment that, with a little more effort from the filmmakers, could have resulted in something a lot more fun.
Fine detail abounds in HBO Max’s Dolby Vision presentation, providing reference-quality home theater demo material that’s gorgeous to look at.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio delivers, with strong & dynamic low-frequency effects, hyperactive surrounds, and dialogue that’s never buried in the dense mix.
anything, but if I had shelled out $25 for movie tickets and another $25 for a bag of popcorn and two bottles of water, I might feel differently.
But, hey, if the screenwriters (and there were plenty of them) had spent a little more time making the banal one-liners just a weensy bit cheesier, they could have had an OK mindless diversion on their hands here. The cast is pretty good, especially Jon Bernthal, who stars as the deputy who gets tied up in this mess from two different directions. Jolie also turns in a solid performance, even if she would need about thirty pounds of prosthetics to be truly believable in the role.
The action is solid (although a bit sparser than you might imagine), the cinematography is better than it has any right to be, and the special effects are absolutely incredible. So if this sort of action flick is your jam, sure. Check it out. Or not. Whatever.
I’ll say this, though: HBO Max’s presentation is further evidence of just how good streaming has gotten in recent years. On Roku Ultra, at least, the Dolby Vision presentation is absolutely reference-quality home theater demo material. What flaws there are in the imagery can’t be pinned on the high-efficiency streaming encode, at any rate.
Shot on a variety of Arri cameras in ArriRaw format in a mix of 3.4K and 5K, the movie was finished in a 4K digital intermediate (kind of surprising, actually, given the amount of digital wizardry in the third act). As you might expect, fine detail abounds, and although I could take issue with the fact that the color palette has been dialed to extremes of warmth even when it doesn’t need to be, it’s still gorgeous to look at.
The expanded dynamic range is used mostly to up the brightness during inferno sequences, or in dark scenes punctuated by very bright lights, and it’s effectively employed. I do wish there were a bit more wiggle room at the lower end of the value scale, since contrasts have been cranked almost to the point of black crush. But that seems to be the look cinematographer Ben Richardson (Mare of Easttown, Yellowstone) was going for, and far be it from me to tell him he’s wrong, because there’s a lot of truly breathtaking imagery on display here, and it’s all captured quite competently.
The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1 only—sorry, Atmos fans—but it does the job of delivering a by-the-numbers action-movie mix quite well. Low-frequency effects are strong and dynamic, the surrounds are hyperactive (although, oddly, never distracting), and dialogue is never buried in the dense mix.
In short, if you’re looking to disconnect your brain for an hour and forty minutes and you’re looking for a throwback-style action movie to work the fans in your projector and amps half to death, Those Who Wish Me Dead might be worth your time. It isn’t worth your money, though, so if you don’t catch it on HBO Max before June 13, wait for it to come back around in a few months.
Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.