The original Sicario released in 2015 was a surprise hit. Popular with moviegoers and critics alike, it garnered three Oscar nominations.
Much of, if not all of the success of the original was owed to Canadian director Dennis Villeneuve and his lead actress Emily Blunt.
Villeneuve painted a dark, moody and nuanced portrait of the war against drugs, and put under a microscope just how far the CIA was willing to go to stop the Mexican cartels.
Blunt’s character, an FBI agent forced to participate in the “off book” CIA plan, was a stand in for the audience – horrified by the violence of the cartels and equally horrified by the U.S. government’s response.
So for the sequel, those brilliant movie executives did what anyone would do and got rid of both the director and leading lady and promoted two secondary macho men characters to the stars of the show.
This time around in Sicario: Day of Soldado (which roughly translates as Hit Man: Day of the Soldier) has Matt Graves (Josh Brolin) as a CIA agent with no boundaries or values left to cross, and his asset, the moody, slow talking, stone cold killer Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro).
Tasked with destabilizing the Mexican cartels, they plan to kidnap the teenage daughter of a cartel kingpin and blame it on a rival cartel. Naturally, the plan goes awry and Del Toro ends up trying to save the girl by smuggling her into the United States by blending in with the rest of the huddled masses yearning to break free from the overwhelming gang violence south of the border.
To be fair, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin both give good performances, and Del Toro is almost successful in turning his one-note assassin into a real human being conflicted about the life he lives.
But their solid performances can’t save the movie from falling into macho guy stereotypes who kill without a second thought and believe the end justifies the means, no matter how horrifying and violent.
The subtlety and complexity explored in the first film, which made the violence feel factual and organic, is replaced by generic and gory action scenes.
This film is an unnecessary sequel that hurts a strong, layered and serious original.
Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia