Review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Score: C-

Director: Stefano Sollima

Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Catherine Keener

Running Time: 122 Minutes

Rated R

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.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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