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Review: "Sicario: Day of the Soldado"

by Chris Feil

That crowdsourced “fan” remake of The Last Jedi that made the rounds in the past week? The one rooted in thinly veiled misogyny, white supremacy, and general ill-advised sentiment to tool with material that’s perfectly fine on its own? Put yourself in front of Sicario: Day of the Soldado, the new prequel to Denis Villeneuve’s layered 2015 film musing on the pervasive institutional evils of the War on Drugs, and you might be convinced that those fans got their hands on this narrative as well.

The warning signs make themselves known immediately, this time focusing on the more enigmatic men in the thick of the corruption: Josh Brolin’s task force leader Matt Graver and Benicio Del Toro’s patiently vengeful hitman Alejandro. Kicking the film off with a demonstratively labored Islamophobic sequence, the audience is served a video game brand of warfare as Graver and Alejandro initiate a kidnapping plot across the Mexican-American border. The kidnappee is Isabel Reyes (played by Isabela Moner, the film’s brightest spot), the daughter of a major cartel leader that may be linked to Alejandro’s past. As expected, the men's hubris is turned in on itself...

This chapter is led by director Stefano Sollima with Taylor Sheridan return to scripting duties, and while it has its own narrative confidence and surprising developments, the film is largely ideologically compromised. Sheridan’s work often exhalts macho male perspectives and makes martyrs of his protagonists, and this is his most toxic work yet. Soldado arrives at a devastating time for American border relations, one that might confuse some to believe that the film espouses a world view that it ultimately doesn’t. Clunky plotting gives way to even murkier motive, all of which is further complicated by emotionally manipulative checks the film has no intention of psychologically cashing.

The film slumps on the screen with an air of irresponsibility, particularly in its portrayal of women. Villeneuve’s Sicario (2015) painted Emily Blunt’s character as someone trapped by the system, rendered immobile despite her sense of justice against the pervasively corrupt front that Graver runs. Sheridan backtracks this time, ambivalent to the corruption and unconvincingly hellbent to show them as saviors at heart. Worse yet, the meddling woman (this time it’s Catherine Keener, and she’s the boss) is turned into the villain for following orders and daring to call the shots. Yes, Soldado is that obviously gross.

Comparing a sequel to original installment is sometimes unfair, particularly when a later film aims to create a different experience. But in the case of the Sicario films, its formidable first film casts a massive shadow over its high-testosterone poser follow-up, one that is barely interested in more than cashing in on good will and eliminating ethical concerns. Gone is the meditative quality of Villeneuve’s smart handling of Sheridan’s bare bones script and in its place is a mostly artless slog to reinforce red state biases. It’s a sequel that draws little inspiration from what was compelling in its source and instead renders its grimness down to dissociative cruelty. It revels in bloodshed.

Whereas Sicario was a hellish vision of intertwined evils wrought with expert craft in dialogue with itself, Soldado is simply a hollow hell.

Grade: D+

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Reader Comments (3)

Yeah, as someone who didn't love the first movie, this was a probable no. Also: Yellowstone (his new TV show) sounds almost as bad. "Where drinking water poisoned by fracking wells and unsolved murders are not news: They are a consequence of living in the new frontier." First off: No, the actual wild west is not actually the new Wild West. That'd either be the internet or space travel, depending on what your intent is. Second: Dude, maybe if you think of that stuff as the consequences of that way of life, that way of life isn't worth living? Just a thought.

June 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I don't want to see it because the reason Del Toro was so perfect in that role (should have won his second Oscar) was because his menace was very enigmatic. There was no way to predict his next move. A prequel will give me more information about the character than I need.

June 29, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

A disappointment for sure but there are some bravura scenes filled with tension...however it all falls apart by the end where it gets really stupid. The first movie was shot like a horror movie this one ends up like another generic actioner.

June 29, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterhaajen

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