By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
The first SICARIO is very good. We can agree on that, right? Cool. It’s a good film that stands on its own and wraps its plot up quite nicely, so the idea of a SICARIO 2 always puzzled me. When the credits begun to roll on the first film, things felt complete. I got out of it all I felt I needed. And that’s one of the major issues with the follow-up, SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO. It’s a major hurdle to jump, one that this film often struggled to achieve, however as the film continued, things begun to change. I never thought I’d say it, but the now-proposed idea of a SICARIO trilogy absolutely thrills me.
The drug war taking place on the US-Mexico border has escalated to an uncontrollable degree. After a number of catastrophic politically-charges bombings, these crime gangs are now being labeled terrorists. Federal agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is sent in by the US Secretary of Defense to take control of the inevitable gang war, but to do so he’s going to have to get his hands dirty. Enter Mexican hitman Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). His shady past brings with him personal motivation, and as these two alleys dig their way into the escalating violence, everything soon begins to collide in ways screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (WIND RIVER, HELL OR HIGH WATER) knows best.
It’s important to me that I mention Josh Brolin’s choice of footwear in this film. While the first instalment saw him sporting thongs (or flip flops as Americans call it), the sequel sees him donning crocs, and it’s probably my favourite part of this movie. He remains the same fascinating, morally ambiguous character I loved the first time around, and Brolin once again knocks it out of the park. His role is a little more exposition heavy, which gives him a little less to do, especially in the second act, but he’s never been the star of these movies and that’s a good thing.
Del Toro’s Alejandro once again swoops in to steal the spotlight as a violent, corrupt man on a mission. Sure, he undergoes pretty much the exact same arc as the first film, with his motivations and ultimate goal straight up copied and pasted, but he continues to be such a fascinating character that it’s easy to forgive. His character’s relationship with young Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner) is the central crux of the film, and it works to perfection. Moner, who previously appeared in TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (*vomits*), gets off to an unevenly written start. Her dialogue just doesn’t work. But the more we saw of her, the more interesting she became, and by the end of it all I found myself emotionally invested in where her story was heading.
Except it’s not just her development that takes time finding its footing; it boils down to the core story. I’m a big fan of Taylor Sheridan’s work. His writing is tense and relevant, and SICARIO may just be my favourite of his. But so much of SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO is overbearing exposition, featuring characters that just aren’t interesting. Catherine Kenner’s Cynthia Foards is as stale and one-dimensional as they come, and a lot of the early scenes featuring Elijah Rodriquez’s Miguel failed to hit the mark. Granted, much like everything else, once a great deal of the setup had gotten out of the way, his subplot really picks up, and damn, this film sticks the landing.
The second half, particularly the third act, really kicks things up a notch. It’s less choppy and more precise in its execution. Sheridan finally unlocked the slow burning story you can tell he was itching towards, and there’s so much here that I absolutely adored. While most of the early set pieces feel flat, there’s a border-set shootout that redeems everything, not to mention a final hostage situation that’s both shocking and tense, if not a big of a stretch in terms of believability. In fact it’s these final moments that make up for the rocky start and make SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO an experience to remember.
SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO is definitely a very different movie to the first, but that’s not always a bad thing. The original one word title of SOLDADO, which translates to Soldier, feels most fitting. But after that ending, I’m definitely interested in seeing where things head next. Here’s hoping we get more of Josh Brolin wearing crocs in the final instalment.
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