Pretty much every fear I had going into this sequel came true. Forsaking all the moral ambiguity and creeping dread of the original, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a nihilistic, senseless action movie, an imitation so pale, I'm surprised it even counts as a follow-up.
I am honestly shocked this script, which relies mostly on so many plot contrivances and Breitbart talking points, that it's credited to the same screenwriter as the original, who also wrote the excellent Hell or High Water and Wind River. Those movies at least had some humanity, even when dealing with horrible characters.
The first half of the film plays like Fox News fan fiction, as Josh Brolin's operative gets unlimited authority from the Secretary of Defense (Matthew Modine) to start a cartel war in Mexico, after a suicide bomber is connected to Mexican smugglers and a Somali pirate. In the first film, Brolin was like chaotic evil: a chubby globetrotter in Crocs and cargo shorts. Now, his newly jacked frame turns him into a badass who occasionally cracks a joke.
At least Benicio Del Toro is still excellent. Brought back in to help with a mission to kidnap the daughter (Isabela Moner) of a cartel leader, he's all business, masking the pain underneath. When the last phase of the mission goes wrong, he's left all alone with her, serving as her protector from rival cartels and his former team members.
The second half of the film plays like a rip-off of Logan, and that's at least decent. But both Logan and Sicario are superior, cohesive movies. They both use violence effectively for maximum impact. Hardly a scene goes by in Day of the Soldado that doesn't turn someone into red mist or leave them drowning in their own blood. It's excessive and desensitizing.
Even if you didn't buy it, the original Sicario at least made an attempt to reckon with the damage done by our country's failed drug war, and the difficulty of being a moral person in an amoral world. Day of the Soldado says to hell with that, and drops a drone bomb on the former and launches an RPG on the latter. Catherine Keener shows up at first to be a malevolent force, reminding Brolin's team to do whatever it takes to get the job done, then reminds them of the optics of wasting a team of corrupt Mexican cops. It's lip service at best and hypocrisy at worst.
This drop-off in quality and depth make Sicario: Day of the Soldado one of the most disappointing sequels ever.