The 2015 crime thriller Sicario was a morality tale about justice, vengeance, and power meticulously crafted by director Denis Villeneuve. Although there was an established antagonist, Villeneuve went an interesting route by exploring the reasons the characters had for hunting down the main villain rather than focusing on the villain himself. Villeneuve may not have been involved with the film’s sequel, Day Of The Soldado, but surely, the filmmakers involved would still retain his directorial sensibilities, right?
Wrong. We don’t have the same meditative tale of corruption and revenge that was the first film. Instead, we get a sequel that is nonsensically violent and also, irresponsibly tone deaf.
The film opens with two suicide bombings started by Islamic terrorists. One takes place in a grocery store and another on the U.S.-Mexico border. Since Mexican cartels are allegedly sneaking terrorists across the border, FBI agent Matt Craver (Josh Brolin) thinks the best situation is to pit the Mexican cartels against one another. Matt calls upon hitman Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to kidnap Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner), the daughter of a cartel leader, in order for his plan to fall through.
Other than that, there’s hardly any story. All we get are shoot-‘em-up action sequences that have little substance. Also, a lack of sympathetic characters and underwritten female characters. Isabela Moner is terrific as Isabel and in fact, is the film’s MVP along with returning actor Benicio Del Toro. Yet, she’s given nothing to work with besides playing a helpless victim. Catherine Keener also appears as Cynthia, Matt’s superior, but all she does is give Matt cold demands and has such limited screen time. However, because this is written by Taylor Sheridan who has a poor track record when it comes to writing women, it’s hardly surprising. The first Sicario did have a major female presence in the form of Emily Blunt who is absent this time around. But her character was still little more than an audience cipher and was a role elevated by Blunt’s quietly effective performance.
Come to think of it, the first Sicario managed to be superior to its successor in spite of its screenplay. Admittedly, the first film’s depiction of Mexico was slightly problematic and as previously mentioned, the main female protagonist was underwritten. Yet, Denis Villeneuve managed to salvage greatness out of Taylor Sheridan’s flawed script by attempting to focus on the character aspects of it rather than the action spectacle.
However, the first film’s stereotypical depiction of Mexico is still being demonstrated here. This film basically reinforces the negative notion that Mexico is mostly slums and cartels. Also, by having Mexican cartels connected to Islamic extremists, the movie feels like a piece of right-wing Fox News propaganda.
Because of its harmful stereotyping and its aimless execution, it is impossible to recommend Sicario: Day Of The Soldado. As you can tell, the lack of Denis Villeneuve and Emily Blunt aren’t the only reasons as to why you should steer clear. It’s nonsensical, tone deaf, and in general, just a miserable film-watching experience.