Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
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.
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.
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.
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