Sicario 2: Soldado

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Stefano Sollima

Starring

Benicio Del Toro Catherine Keener Josh Brolin

Anticipation.

No Blunt, but interested to see how the other two Bs fare.

Enjoyment.

Peak Del Toro. Otherwise rattles along without doing or saying anything particularly new.

In Retrospect.

Must remember to dig out that Che Blu-ray later…

Benicio Del Toro is at his formidable best in this deeply cynical and scattershot cartel saga sequel.

As per the studio bean counters and self-facilitating aggregation nodes who increasingly seem to have a hand in these matters, the current blockbuster season officially belongs to Josh Brolin. Clearly the 50-year-old is enjoying something of a mid-career renaissance, having starred in Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2 and now Sicario 2: Soldado in rapid succession. Even so, ‘the summer of Josh Brolin’ feels like one of the less significant cultural nexus points in recent human history. All things considered.

Sorry to pour cold water on this particular PR-spun narrative. It’s just that Brolin isn’t the only seasoned big hitter on a hot streak: you may have noticed that Benicio Del Toro has also appeared in two record-breaking franchise instalments of late, Infinity War and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. More to the point, he coolly and consummately outguns Brolin here. Which should come as little surprise to anyone who has followed the Puerto Rican’s career up to this point.

Since making his breakthrough in Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects back in 1995, Del Toro has displayed a tendency to cruise under the radar, to steal the show without resorting to showiness. He appears to relish operating this way, eschewing the bicep-curling bluster which has become the default mode for so many leading men in Hollywood in favour of a more restrained – but no less muscular – style of performance.

The second part of a proposed Sicario trilogy sees both Del Toro and Brolin reprise their grizzled anti-hero roles from Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 effort, as conflicted hitman Alejandro and hard-headed federal fixer Matt Graver respectively. Each is given roughly the same amount of screen time (although they share only a handful of scenes), with the former effectively replacing Emily Blunt’s rookie operative as the film’s emotional fulcrum.

Evidently, returning screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is far more interested in developing Alejandro’s backstory than his own scattershot cartel saga. So while the script once again foregrounds the hot button geopolitical issues of border control, military intervention and the War on Drugs, the film’s most powerful and enduring image is that of Alejandro using sign language to communicate with a deaf person in the desert.

This is the only scene in the film where Sheridan and director Stefano Sollima, who knows this crime-drama terrain well having previously helmed the gangland thriller Suburra and Gomorrah TV series, suggest that in order to overcome the various barriers to human connection that exist in our chaotic modern world, sometimes a new dialogue must first be established. Which is incredibly frustrating. Because what this deeply cynical film lacks more than anything else – especially at a time of strained US-Mexico relations – is a coherent, constructive message.

There is no greater sense of meaning or purpose here. Hope is not forthcoming; not even the compassion Alejandro shows to the daughter of the notorious mob boss who wronged him in a past life is enough to soften the edges of what is a grimly macho action movie. The convoluted child kidnapping plot, generic helicopter shots and seat-shaking horn blasts that make up Hildur Guðnadóttir’s overbearing score all serve to persuade us that this is a Serious Film about Real Issues. If anything, Sicario 2: Soldado will only fuel the toxic discourse around the perceived crises of immigration, terrorism and organised crime. Del Toro is top-drawer though.

Published 27 Jun 2018

Tags: Benicio Del Toro Catherine Keener Josh Brolin Stefano Sollima

Anticipation.

No Blunt, but interested to see how the other two Bs fare.

Enjoyment.

Peak Del Toro. Otherwise rattles along without doing or saying anything particularly new.

In Retrospect.

Must remember to dig out that Che Blu-ray later…

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