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Review – Sicario 2: Soldado – “A simplified yet slick sequel”

The follow-up to Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, Sicario 2: Soldado is an Emily Blunt-less sequel that also sees the director’s chair now filled by Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah). Writer Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water) returns, as does power couple Benicio del Toro (The Usual Suspects) and Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War).

Sicario 2 imitates the cool visual style of the original and doubles down on the super tense shoot ‘em up action. Missing Emily Blunt’s heart and soul, Sicario 2 leans into the manly men with machine guns on a mission marauding through Mexico in shades of Michael Bay yellow.

After three illegal immigrants jump the Mexico-US border and then suicide bomb a supermarket, the US government freak out and sign off on federal agent Matt Graver (Brolin) leading a black op. The off-the-books mission is intended to start a war between the Mexican cartels to get some revenge and strengthen the case for tightening border security.

Given current events and US government attitudes, the story seems problematic initially – terrorist Mexican border crossers praying to Allah then killing innocent Americans – but as black and white blur, and the moral lines and political goalposts shift, the reality of events ends up thankfully no longer being a Trump wet dream. This does make it tough to enjoy the first half an hour with a clear conscience though.

Graver re-partners up with sicario Alejandro (del Toro) to set the Mexican gangs against each other by feigning attacks and revenge attacks culminating in the kidnap of a drug czar’s daughter, Isabel (Isabela Moner, Transformers: The Last Knight). Benicio and Brolin’s chemistry is great. The Summer of J-Bro™ continues, following Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2, with Brolin providing another immense flawed tough guy performance; while even stoic and severe, Benicio del Toro is an enigmatic and magnetic charisma bomb.

Unfortunately though, following an absolutely gripping convoy ambush, their hugely enjoyable partnership gets split up. Alejandro is left looking after Isabel, but luckily Moner is absolutely excellent. Reminiscent of Natalie Portman’s performance in Leon, Moner is a tough young woman, shaped by a bad homelife, who brings out the best and the humanity in a seemingly uncrackable hit man. The pair’s attempt to survive and sneak back into the States is thrilling, intercut with Matt excitingly going all out in now-lawless retaliation.

A frankly ridiculous pair of plot points at the finish line are so ridiculous and ludicrous that they nearly derail the entire thing for the sake of an offensively obvious sequel set up, but they cannot completely undo the atmosphere of a film so intense that you’ll leave rubbing the sand from behind ears that are still ringing from Hildur Guðnadóttir’s powerful score.

A simplified yet slick sequel that without Blunt’s character’s point-of-view and idealism is more a tale of sunglasses, sand and shooters, where the only rule is there are no rules. And that you have to leave things open for a sequel.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado is on general release in the UK.

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