Sicario sneaked up on moviegoers and critics alike in the latter part of 2015, earning excellent reviews and ultimately finding its audience online. This sequel reunites two of its stars (Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro) and boasts a script by the original writer, Taylor Sheridan. But despite their best efforts, it falls far short of the earlier film.
At first, Sicario: Day of the Soldado seems to have the grit and substance of the original but it soon becomes evident that the story isn’t going anywhere. It’s difficult to assign blame for this misfire. Is it the absence of a strong female protagonist like the one played by Emily Blunt, or Roger Deakins’ cinematography, or the late Johan Johannsson’s score? Sheridan has done first-rate work since that breakout opportunity (including Wind River and Hell or High Water, which he also directed). Director Stefano Sollima, primarily a television director (with episodes of Gomorrah under his belt) seems to have a handle on the material.
It all goes back to the screenplay, which has a multitude of flaws. As soon as the U.S. Secretary of State (Matthew Modine) hires Brolin to execute a black ops assignment in Mexico, it’s clear he doesn’t understand how things work with drug cartels and the government south of the border. Why is he so clueless when we know what to expect?
Catherine Keener is wasted as the government agent supervising Brolin and del Toro’s sub rosa operation. I must admit, Del Toro is so good he almost makes the film worth seeing. Almost. The best scene in the movie involves him, the kidnaped daughter of a cartel kingpin, and a dirt-poor farmer he approaches for food and shelter. The actor is remarkably expressive and his low-key approach is highly effective.
As for the storyline, it’s difficult to describe without revealing spoilers. Suffice it to say that the American protagonists haven’t got a chance because everybody in Mexico is corrupt and cannot be trusted. The violence is extreme and worthy of an R rating. A fair amount of effort went into this production, but the results are simply unsatisfying.