UK Release Date: 29th June 2018
Runtime: 122 minutes
Director: Stefano Sollima
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener, Jeffrey Donovan
Synopsis: Morally shady “advisers” are brought in to cause a war between the drug cartels in an attempt to stem the flow of terrorists into America.
All of the marketing for Sicario 2: Soldado focused on an enhanced feel of danger. Trailers teased Josh Brolin‘s shady adviser meeting with his hitman ally, played by Benicio Del Toro, and promising to “turn him loose” with “no rules this time”. As the clichéd nature of that dialogue suggests, Sicario 2 lacks the artful sophistication of its 2015 predecessor, which was one of the best films of that year. Returning scribe Taylor Sheridan delivers another ripped from the headlines thriller with a hard, violent edge and incoming director Stefano Sollima does a very solid job of filling Denis Villeneuve‘s enormous shoes, but there’s a sense that this is just a touch more generic than what came before.
Sollima’s movie, like Villeneuve’s, begins with a potent blast of horrifying, explosive violence. This time around, the central concern of Sheridan’s script is the drug cartels making even more money by ferrying terrorists across the border into America – an unfortunate conflation of terrorists with immigrants given the recent prominence of that issue in Trump’s America. The slightly slimy Secretary of Defense (Matthew Modine) tells CIA adviser Matt (Brolin) that he has been hired to cause a war between the cartels to destabilise the criminal ecosystem. With the help of the ruthless Alejandro (Del Toro), a plan is hatched to kidnap Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner) – the daughter of a cartel head honcho.
Sicario 2 is every bit as nasty as the first movie but, despite the talk in the trailer, it never feels as dangerous and lawless as that world did. First time around, the truth was concealed from the audience by virtue of Emily Blunt‘s character being kept in the dark. Without such an audience surrogate, the machinations of the plot are all too clear from day one and so some of the mystery is lost.
With that said, the movie functions very well as a ‘dudes with guns’ thriller. Sheridan has an eye for the dark corners of humanity and that certainly comes through in Sicario 2, which finds real tension in the way its story unfolds – most notably in one horrifying and surprising set piece in the final act. Unfortunately, the looming spectre of a ‘Sicario Saga’ means that the bleakness of the ending is undercut by a crass and unappealing sequel teaser. It seems the plague of Hollywood’s desperation for everything to become a franchise stretches even into the world of adult thrillers.
Appropriately enough, it’s a franchise blockbuster that Sicario 2 most closely resembles in its second half. The relationship between Del Toro’s hitman and the delightfully spirited Isabela Moner is reminiscent of the bond at the centre of Logan between the title character and his sort-of-daughter Laura. It’s a bond the movie would have been wise to push more to the surface, as it feels somewhat rushed in order to move the parts into position for the final movement of the story.
It’s a shame to have to criticise Sicario 2 in relation to its predecessor. Soldado weaves a complex and intriguing story, helped by Sollima’s compelling direction, but it’s one that pales in comparison to the first film, both in terms of story and when it comes to the visual flair. Sollima and DOP Dariusz Wolski do a solid job, but they can’t compete with Villeneuve and Roger Deakins – a dream team for the ages.
Pop or Poop?
A selection of excellent performances and a bracingly nasty script from Taylor Sheridan is enough to make Sicario 2: Soldado a worthy follow-up to the masterful first film in what we now have to refer to as a franchise. However, the absence of the initial movie’s shady storytelling leaves it feeling like a rather more generic action thriller than what Denis Villeneuve produced. As an example of that genre, it’s an impressive one, but fans of the original will expect a lot more.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.