Isabela Moner and Benicio Del Toro in Sicario: Day of the Soldado (Photo: Columbia)

★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Stefano Sollima
STARS Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin

Directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Taylor Sheridan, the 2015 feature Sicario focused on conscientious FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) as she became involved in a clandestine effort to bring down a powerful Mexican drug cartel. Kate Macer’s story ended with Sicario, and rather than force the round character into the square peg that is Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Sheridan, backed by new director Stefano Sollima, has wisely opted to focus on the other central characters from the first film.

That would be Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro) and Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), hardcore operatives who tend to shoot first and ask questions later. Without Macer/Blunt’s humanizing presence, Sicario: Day of the Soldado ran the risk of being nothing but two hours of unrelenting machismo and unprecedented bloodletting. Thankfully, that’s not the case — at the same time, the film is far inferior to its excellent predecessor.

Alejandro and Matt are here given carte blanche to conduct the war on drugs in any manner they see fit. At least that’s the initial promise from the U.S. government – later, when a retraction is ordered because (as one character accurately notes) the incompetent Trump is a “coward” who’s “afraid of being impeached,” the good guys are left scrambling. This is particularly true for Alejandro, whose newfound relationship with a drug kingpin’s guileless teenage daughter (Isabela Moner) brings out a protective streak even he didn’t realize he possessed.

While nitwit white supremacists will doubtless flock to this film believing it’s a call to build the wall, the truth is that it’s actually sympathetic toward ordinary Mexicans, instead reserving all its outrage for those drug dealers who have no qualms about treating their fellow countrymen (and women) as disposable cattle. On this level, the movie largely works as a robust action-thriller, but its effectiveness is ultimately undermined by a sloppy third act riddled with absurd coincidences and unresolved plotlines.

While it wouldn’t be fair to advise potential viewers to just say no to Sicario: Day of the Soldado, it would be acceptable to recommend that they approach it with lofty expectations held in check.


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