We find in “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” a Hollywood rarity: a sequel that can go toe-to-toe with its predecessor.
“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” ditches Emily Blunt’s character from the first film and brings us an entirely new tale with the dynamic duo of Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. It’s fittingly brutal and just as bleak and bloody as the first film. Strong performances from the entire cast and slightly raised stakes in the cartel wars propel “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” forward. I’m here for it.
In “Sicario: Day of the Soldado”(aka “Sicario 2”), the drug war on the US/Mexican border has escalated to a fever pitch. The cartels have moved beyond drugs and are smuggling terrorists across the border. “Coyotes” are making the judgment call of who makes it to the Land of Opportunity and who doesn’t. Federal Agent Matt Graver (Brolin) must re-team with Alejandro (Del Toro) to fight this threat.
“Sicario 2” is helmed by director Stefano Sollima and gets a damn fine screenplay out of writer Taylor Sheridan (“Sicario,” “Wind River”).
This critic greatly appreciates how “Sicario 2” deviates from the formula with the confidence to establish itself as a great movie, in and of itself. A shortcoming of many Hollywood sequels is the assumption that audiences just want to see the same thing over and over. While “Sicario 2” is not without its faults, it’s a great summer flick and I highly recommend it!
If there’s one thing the “Sicario” films do like no other it’s action, and “Sicario 2” doesn’t disappoint. It’s very easy for action films to get a little improbable and mindless. “Flash and trash” in the most literal sense. “Sicario 2” is what I’d call smart action. The spectacle relies more on hard characters and shocking kills than it does explosions. The action is impressive but also makes sense. There’s a touch of realism to it that allows it to hit deeper. I’m into it.
As I mentioned previously, there is not a weak performance in “Sicario 2”. Even the smallest, walk-on roles are done very well. Brolin seems to have the Gruff Badass character down to a fine science and that certainly shows here.
His portrayal of Graver is tough as nails but not without emotion. Well done.
It’s unfortunate that we had to lose Blunt for the sequel, as “Sicario 2” did not quite pass muster on supplying another strong female character. However, that does not take away from the performance given by Isabela Moner. She brings some emotional depth to her role as the abducted daughter of a cartel kingpin. I was pleasantly surprised by the performance, it was a real standout in the film.
Of course, I must heap ALL the praise on Del Toro who has solidified Alejandro as a career-defining role. The character just gets better and better and Del Toro delivers an incredibly powerful, yet nuanced performance. Subtle is the name of the game and Del Toro is a master. That kind of grave calculation is exactly what more of our action stars need. It’s refreshing for the genre and elevates the entire film. I don’t think I could ever get sick of seeing Del Toro in this role.
With the sweet comes the sour, however. “Sicario 2” was on a trajectory for greatness up until the final act. It took the disappointing and predictable route of “obvious sequel setup is obvious”. Additionally, “Sicario 2” played the dangerous game of killing off a character but resurrecting him. A terrible trope that cheapens those dramatic plot points. I expected better. (General Critic Note: Killing characters only to bring them back to life two scenes later is a practice that just needs to stop. You stop that, Hollywood!)
It is difficult to watch a film set along the border and completely put politics out of your mind. This actually works well for “Sicario 2”. The first film did not shy away from the hard realities of life on the border and “Sicario 2” follows suit. “Sicario 2” takes a few coy shots at major issues in this country, while still presenting a very even-handed appraisal of the border. If you like your action films with an opportunity for political reflection, “Sicario 2” may be for you.
I’m usually of the opinion that most movies can wait for a rental, but I highly recommend getting out to the theaters and seeing “Sicario: Day of the Soldado”! A worthy sequel, a great action movie, and a showcase of awesome performances.
“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” hits theaters on June 29. Don’t miss it!
Featured image credit: © 2018 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.