Sicario 2: Soldado: The loss of Emily Blunt ruins the sequel

Review: This well assembled film falls far short of the Oscar-nominated original

Brolin and del Toro have enough charisma to ensure this sequel was never going to play like ‘Smokey and the Bandit 3’, the instalment without Burt Reynolds

Film Title: Sicario 2

Director: Stefano Sollima

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Catherine Keener, Christopher Heyerdahl, Matthew Modine, Isabela Moner

Genre: Action

Running Time: 122 min

Thu, Jun 28, 2018, 10:45

   

The murderous Mexican drug cartels have nothing on marauding US security forces in Sicario 2: Soldado, a film that could easily have been called Team America: World Police if the South Park crew hadn’t got there first.

The Trumpian images just keep on coming in an overture that begins with Mexican migrants crossing the Texas border and being surrounded by border patrol officers. Some of them are not Mexican but Isis operatives who have come to the US – with assistance from Somali pirates (the gang is all here) – to blow up a Kansas superstore.

That act inspires the secretary of defense (Modine) to summon in black ops whiz Matt Graver (Brolin), who soon enlists his old chum Alejandro (del Toro). Their mission is a false-flag wheeze to kidnap Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner), the daughter of a Mexican drug lord.  

Stefano Sollima, the director of Suburro and Gomorrah for TV, specialises in sleek, pacey entertainments in which the bad guys are the good guys. And this one is pacey enough. In fact, that one barely has time to notice a particularly gaping coincidence – one that might be rejected by the trashiest telenovela – required by the plot.

Politically, we’re in the same murky territory as in José Padilha’s Elite Squad: the tut-tutting is entirely silent. In the movieverse, fascism is fun.

Sicario 2 makes you watch as terrorists cry “Allahu Akbar” while taking out ordinary American shoppers so it can justify all the shoot-em-up imperialism to come. Trump is referred to as POTUS in much the same tone that Voldemort is He Who Must Not Be Named, and is carefully exonerated.

As a movie, it is expectedly exciting, yet not nearly as heart-pounding as its predecessor. It’s well assembled but it lacks the impactful horrors and falls well short of the alchemy of the Oscar-nominated original, which brought together the impeccable direction of Denis Villeneuve, the cinematography of Roger Deakins, and one of the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s most thrilling compositions. (Sicario 2’s director of photography Dariusz Wolski and Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score are more than fair substitutions.)

Brolin and del Toro have enough charisma to ensure this sequel was never going to play like Smokey and the Bandit 3, the instalment without Burt Reynolds.

But Emily Blunt is a huge loss. Blunt not only occupied the central role of the 2015 original, but made for the film’s most interesting and complex character. She’s sorely missed in a drama that now pitches del Toro’s brooding masculinity against Brolin’s cowboy machismo. The two most prominent females on screen – Catherine Keener and Isabela Moner – are there, but only just.

Ultimately, this feels like a bridging film. A key unexplored detail about Alejandro is casually tossed out during an exchange between Keener and Brolin and the final shot might as well have a voiceover saying: “Next time on Sicario 3: Operation Bring Back Blunt”.

Should that come to pass, this, commendably, may be the lowest grossing sequence since Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy to spawn sequels.