I recently watched Sicario: Day of the Soldado, more to settle a debate between Tango and Luellen, than any desire to see the film. Don’t misunderstand, I thoroughly enjoyed the original because the film didn’t ask forgiveness for its own brutality and honesty. Enter Sicario 2, a film which literally began with a bang but slowly ebbed into a distant fizzle. Centered around the struggle for southern border security, Sicario: Day of the Soldado initially hinted at terrorist incursions from Mexico but then seemed to lose focus and dabble with with a handful of discordant topics including covert ops, changed allegiance and, most annoyingly, teenage angst.
In a predictable plot arc, the U.S. government decides Mexican cartels are now terrorist organizations, thus allowing a broader scope of interdiction tools on the battlefield. Chief among those tools is a steely-eyed covert operations officer, played by Josh Brolin, and our resident assassin, played by Benicio Del Toro. Things move quickly and initially the action is hot and heavy with small unit combat, a healthy dose of executions, but things take an odd turn as the film begins to lose focus and settles on the plight of two teens. Caught up in the mayhem of border conflict, both walk different and uneven paths further contributing to the lack of a cohesive experience. That trend continues downward which scatters the story and leaves the audience wondering why they are following the path of a teenage coyote with aspirations of grandeur.
What brings the film back from the edge is the acting prowess of Brolin and Del Toro. Masters of their respective craft, both deliver strong performances and elevate a weak script. In one particular scene, Del Toro musters incredible fortitude to overcome a tragic event and manages to do so with convincing intensity. The tone of darkness continued from the first film but, again, is marred by the uneven plot. Fittingly, the final scene finishes the job like an assassin putting the final round in the head of the target. Though I won’t drop a spoiler, I found myself in an eye-roll moment as the final line is uttered. Truth be told, kinda threw up a little.
Should the writers removed the teenage coyote and kept the focus on-point, this film could easily have rivaled the first but as things stand, we landed miles away from what made the original so enjoyably dark. In the final analysis, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is nothing but a rental, likely worth tracking down upon release but you wouldn’t make a mistake it you waited for a RedBox coupon — solid but not great, with a Rip Rating of 5/10. As for the original debate and for what it’s worth, I think I come down closer to Tango than Luellen — but not by much.