SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO Review

By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic

Our favorite ruthless killers are back and a Brolin/Del Toro non-superhero franchise, now an oddity, is born.

Was there an intended sequel to director Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 SICARIO, which starred Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro? The unrelenting, ruthless drug cartel drama was mesmerizing.

Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s SICARIO was to be a stand-alone drama with Josh Brolin as CIA operative Matt Graver who puts together an unusual team of hardened killers. One of them is enigmatic attorney-turned-vicious killer-of-children Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). Alejandro has a good reason to seek revenge on a drug cartel kingpin. The drug lord ordered the killing of his entire family.

Alejandro was such an unusual character, the demand for a sequel with him was assured.

In SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO, Sheridan brings Alejandro forward as Graver is once again tasked with doing his worst – no questions asked. “You’re going to help us start a war,” Graver tells Alejandro. Graver also tells him the powers above have given him “carte blanche.”

After settling up the logistics of the plan – this does not come cheap – Graver and Alejandro, along with a team, kidnap Isabela (Isabela Moner) the daughter of crime boss Carlos Reyes, as she is leaving her private school. Isabela is a tough 16-year-old and knows her privileges.

14-year-old Miguel (Elijah Rodriguez) lives in a border town where his U.S. citizenship allows him to cross the border from Mexico to the U.S. with relative ease. His cousin enlists him to guide people part of the way to a bus that will take them across the border. Miguel’s part of the trafficking is easy and short, but it is just the beginning of his introduction to the Mexican cartel world of money and careless violence.

Unlike medieval soldiers who used special salves and “magic shirts” that they believed made them invulnerable to death, Graver has no need for amulets or clothes of armor. Fear of death is not even lurking in his unconscious mind. And he is true to his nature – he doesn’t have a redeeming quality. You might think so, but the power to not kill is just as powerful as the taking of someone’s life. Both are the properties of a god-like entity.

In purely practical terms, Graver sees everything he must do as advancing the mission and completing it as he sees fit.

I’d like to see his backstory.

When fiery Isabela escapes into the desert, Alejandro goes after her and they begin the journey to the safety of the U.S. And when Alejandro is recognized by Miguel and his cover as a humble Mexican farmer is exposed, all Hell comes down on him. Graver’s mission is stopped when the U.S. must face his team killing Mexico’s federal police. Alejandro reaches Graver who tells him the directive has changed – he must eliminate Isabela and to leave everything spotless. Alejandro understands he and Isabela will not be rescued by Graver.

Brolin is always fantastic but here he does appear shorter, much shorter, representing his likely true stature. Brolin loves these roles and he will someday be rewarded – when someone steps up and does his killer instinct characterizations the due it deserves.

Directed by Stefano Sollima (the terrific GOMORRAH), the film is a thriller expanding on Brolin’s character and giving Del Toro a near-mythic character to portray. Of course, vicious villains with good reasons cannot be heroes with principles, so for SICARIO 3 to not go soft, Taylor Sheridan has his work set out for him. If Del Toro’s Alejandro becomes a baby hit-man’s mentor, will there be a code, or will the apprentice turn on the master? We have seen this plot many times before. It’s unlikely Sheridan would cop-out, but who knows what compromises come with extraordinary success?

The music by Hildur Gudnadottir, echoing the original SICARIO’S score by the late Johann Johannson is a strong, very strong co-star. Every note breeds fear and desolation.

Victoria Alexander

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

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