Sicario 2: Soldado is an all-you-can-eat buffet of Trumpian anxieties – Mexican drug cartels are smuggling terrorists from the Middle East across the border into Texas. CIA enforcer Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is given free rein to obliterate the crime syndicates with whatever dirty tactics he sees fit.
Uneasily following Denis Villeneuve’s seminal, blood-pumping 2015 thriller, Soldado is shorn of many of its predecessor’s winning attributes. Emily Blunt, a conflicted, magnetic centre new to the anarchic world of vice and violence, is gone, as is Villeneuve’s sturdy guiding hand and the delicate, artful eye of the inimitable Roger Deakins.
Without these key components, Soldado spirals around for a new identity and misses the mark more than it hits. Brolin and Benicio del Toro’s vengeful hitman Alejandro Gillick, once the devil and angel on Blunt’s shoulders, are steeped too deeply in the mire to serve as relatable leads and the promise of a bitter cat-and-mouse between the two fails to emerge fully.
In fact, Soldado flubs most of its most promising pitches. Musings on the loss of innocence to the drug trade through the eyes of Isabela Moner’s gangster’s daughter or Elijah Rodriguez’s wannabe enforcer get buried in the confusion. The film’s politics are a stark muddle of xenophobia and paranoia with no message of note.
While Sicario was a masterclass in vein-busting tension, Soldado is starkly more inconsistent in its delivery of thrills. Director Stefano Sollima conducts action setpieces with robust aplomb, but Sicario’s particular je ne sais quoi was how it maintained that tension inbetween the explosive carnage. Dread in Soldado dissipates as quickly as it manifests.
It derives a killer performance from del Toro, but Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay fails to recapture the lightning in Sicario’s bottle, leading to a sequel that is competently made but ultimately aimless and ineffective.
CAST: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Catherine Keener, Matthew Modine, Isabela Moner
DIRECTOR: Stefano Sollima
WRITERS: Taylor Sheridan
SYNOPSIS: The drug war on the US-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.