Sicario: Day of the Soldado (Stefano Sollima, 2018) 2 out of 4 stars.
Acclaimed screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water) returns to the harsh and amoral border wars of the United States and Mexico in the second chapter of his Sicario saga, Sicario: Day of the Soldado (or “Sicario 2”). Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro return as U.S. special task force agent Matt Graver and the mysterious gunman-for-hire Alejandro. After a series of terrorist bombings occur on U.S. soil, the Department of Defense discovers evidence that places the Mexican cartels at the very heart of these bombings. Convinced the cartels need to be taken down before things escalate even further, the Defense Department seeks the help of Agent Graver and Alejandro and asks them to do whatever it takes to start a major war between the rival organizations.
Sicario 2 offers just enough meaty material for Brolin and Del Toro to chew on and a couple exciting shootouts on the U.S.-Mexican border to tie the audience over, but it’s evident Sheridan isn’t entirely sure of the direction he wants to take the second installment of a story that didn’t need to be continued. Plot threads begin and end at misplaced marks of the story. Each one carries an interesting and extremely relevant topic regarding the stupidly complex relationship between America and Mexico, but the ball is dropped every single time. There’s barely enough of a recognizable arc for any character and the vital plot information that is available—information that would help this film stand on its own—is scarce at best. One hour into the film and you begin to realize this story isn’t going to amount to much except a mediocre “passing of the baton” to the third act of this crime saga. Hopefully it can deliver the closure this film happily chucked over the border.
A saving grace of the movie is Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro and the remarkably effective aura of mystery that surrounds this dangerous man. We still find out very little of Alejandro’s backstory but what we do learn, along with Del Toro’s greatly restrained performance, is all we need to follow this character anywhere. In the final minutes of the film, the presence of Alejandro in the frame is reminiscent of the Devil, always keeping in the shadows and always ready to claim the next damned soul. Sicario: Day of the Soldado is Taylor Sheridan’s loud and stylish devotion to Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro and nothing else. If it weren’t for Del Toro’s hypnotizing performance then the film would go down as the first afterthought of Sheridan’s impressive career as one of Hollywood’s premier storytellers.