I wish the “Sicario” name had been dropped from “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” because maybe I would’ve enjoyed the film more. With the studio’s insistence of making an unnecessary follow-up to the fantastic, intense original film, it only amplifies the sequel’s copious shortcomings. There’s a whole lot missing from this movie, including subversive storytelling, an incendiary emotional punch, and the most glaring omissions of all: the film’s original director, editor, cinematographer, and composer.
Federal agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) calls on Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to do the covert dirty work for the U.S. government when it’s discovered that cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the U.S. border. When Alejandro kidnaps the kingpin’s daughter (Isabela Moner), she becomes potential collateral damage so he risks it all to move her safely across the border.
Very little about this film feels like the first “Sicario.” Instead of a thought-provoking thriller about government corruption and crumbling interpretations of righteousness, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan abandons the moral complexity of the characters by attempting to turn them into rah-rah American action heroes. This film lacks the intensity and visual beauty of the far superior original, and the bloody shootouts with copycat staging snatched from the first film feels gross and cheap.
It’s as if Sheridan wrote three movies in one, yet none are good enough to stand alone and none of them work as one cohesive story. There’s one plot about a kidnapping, one about the government trying to instigate a cartel war, and another about one kid’s journey to the dark side. Not one pays off.
This film is subpar on every level. It almost seems unfair to compare it to 2015’s dream team behind the camera. Besides missing an insanely talented director and cinematographer (Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins), a huge problem with this film is the editing. I rarely pick on an editor, but Matthew Newman‘s work here is a mess. There are characters who appear out of nowhere with zero context and are never to be seen again, confusing leapfrogging of setting and place within one scene, and more than half a dozen instances of a character’s mouth moving but not matching the words they’re speaking when filmed from behind.
The tension is here, but it’s dialed down from the previous movie. There’s an unsettling border immigration subplot that attempts to ramp up fears of the “other” in the form of both Mexicans as well as Muslim terrorists illegally crossing the U.S. border. It feels at best callous and at worst irresponsible. Ditto for the repugnant ending that is out of character for Alejandro and is a cheap set up for a sequel that I will not be looking forward to seeing.