How times change. Formulaic enough to have come from a packet, Those Who Wish Me Dead is exactly the kind of banged-out action thriller that would have once starred Sylvester Stallone or a smirking Bruce Willis, cast as a rowdy firefighter with a past. Now the role goes to Angelina Jolie, playing a veteran “smokejumper” — a wildfire first responder — unable to find peace in rural Montana, her party-hard exterior a mask for bad memories.

And how they stay the same. The 1990s are no more but their methods remain, down to the portrait of that back-story. Slabs of flashback land like breezeblocks. So too the old Hollywood endgame: redemption.

The movie arrives with a pedigree. The director is Taylor Sheridan, whose credits as a writer include the well-regarded Sicario and Hell or High Water, gnarled tales of moral complexity. Here, the evil that men do is neatly contained in the person of two hired killers played by Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult. For reasons of plot (convoluted), their quarry is a young boy. Fires are duly started, mostly digitally. And “Action”.

It has been a long time since Jolie ascended to the kind of celebrity where her acting career feels like a vestige from another life. By now, she makes as plausible a firefighter as she would anything else. That much is the problem: she is doomed to be Angelina Jolie and that alone, the rest of the film so overawed it seems on the brink of asking for her autograph.


In UK cinemas from May 17