The first Sicario, a flawless, brutal yet grimly beautiful thriller concerning policing the Mexican cartels and the dodgy, godless shit the government spooks pull to keep ahead, was a legitimate embarrassment of riches.
It featured an impressive central performance from Emily Blunt as a dangerously green agent being led down a yellow brick road of lies by Josh Brolin – easily winning gold in the shady wanker olympics – and an inhumanly impassive Benicio Del Toro, who hadn’t been this unlikeably likeable since Way Of The Gun OR The Usual Suspects. Directed with substantial flair by Dennis Villeneuve it was the quintessential stand alone modern crime movie, which makes the appearance of a sequel initially a worrisome prospect. After all sequelizing something that doesn’t contain superheroes or isn’t an adaption of a young adult novel is notoriously risky and that’s without adding the sinking feeling in the pit of our collective bellies about the news that neither Emily Blunt or the director (busy with the hypnotic Blade Runner sequel) were due to return…
Well, someone, somewhere must have sacrificed a goat to the sequel gods as Sicario: Day Of The Soldado is absolutely fucking great.
While it lacks Villeneuve’s stunning eye and Blunt’s eroded innocence, it more than makes up for it in hard edged thrills, brutal plot twists and shifting it’s two alpha male asshole leads to the foreground where they can do more damage and explore their weird symbiotic bromance between CIA spook and diposed cartel killer.
When suicide bombers detonate themselves in a supermarket after being smuggled into America through the Mexican border, the US declare the Cartels responsible and upgrade the bosses from psychotic drug peddlers to a full on terrorist threat, therefore killing two birds with one stone. They get their professional shit stirrer on the phone and Agent Matt Graver (Brolin), presumably from taking time out from punching babies and kicking puppies for cash, is eager to reply. His response is to get the Cartels at each other’s throats so they can do all the pesky leg work and kill each other so he can swoop in and casually step on the neck of any survivors so he enlists his mysterious go to guy and pet shit kicker, Alejandro Gillick (Del Toro) to do just that. The plan? Kidnap a mob bosses daughter, frame another Cartel, then step back and watch the blood fly. Needless to say, not entirely everything goes to plan and soon Del Toro is on the run with a teenage girl through the desert, trying to get back across the border with both crooks and the US military in full pursuit. Will Graver actually follow orders and terminate both Gillick and the girl or will that shrivelled up excuse for a conscience come up with a way to circumvent the problem instead of drilling it with small arms fire.
Be warned, this whole film is so tense that your super-tight butthole will be pooping nothing thicker than super-thin spaghetti strands for hours after it ends. A teeth grinding ambush on a dusty road is a nerve jangling highlight, but all the blazing set pieces are magnificent examples of cold blooded, realistic action truly worthy of the stoney faced legacy of the original.
The insanely dependable leads are great too. Del Toro (still equipped with a dead-eyed glare that could stop a rampaging bull at a 100 paces) gets to explore more of his character’s vengeful motivations, showing a delicate touch to his young charge while never once feeling less than utterly lethal – like cyanide with the hint of a conscience. Brolin, on the other hand, gloriously up-shifts into a fifth gear of smugness that even surpasses the swaggering deuche baggery he displayed in the original, casually concocting plans within plans with not a single thought for anyone who may get caught in the cross fire.
Director Stefano Sollima has crafted something quite rare here, a stand alone sequel that’s politically relevant and utterly respectful of it’s predecessor that demands a trilogy caper pronto (a return by Emily Blunt to bring down the charismatic do-badders is positively mouth watering) and surely Isabela Moner – Dora The Explorer (or should that be exploder?), who plays the cartel kingpins willful daughter is destined for great things.
The loss of Blunt is felt (how could it not, it’s Emily Blunt for God’s sake) and even though the teenage girl adds a counterpoint to the gum chewing masculinity on show, the balance isn’t as strong as it was before. The steely and respectful follow up also falters slightly when credulity is stretched thanks to a mortally wounded character suddenly gaining the recoperative powers of Wolverine, but Sicario: Day Of The Soldado ultimately is that rarest of things: a super serious, political thriller franchise that delivers in smarts and tension.
Let nothing stand in your way to see this dark masterclass in amoral ass kicking. Not even the border.
I’m ready for Sicario 3 and really hope that it delivers, considering how very obviously it was set up in this movie.