Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)
Director – Stefano Samillo
Writer – Taylor Sheridan
Starring –Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro
Rating – R
Genre – Action, Drama
Metascore – 60/100
Rotten Tomatoes – 64%
Screenwriter and director Taylor Sheridan has established himself in recent years as an expert of the neo-western genre. Between Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River, Sheridan is a master of telling stories of humanity in in harsh environments, rife with lawlessness. The original Sicario, starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio del Toro was a compelling, harrowing story of the war against the Mexican cartels. Sicario confronted audiences with questions of morality, like what actions are acceptable in pursuit of “the greater good?” Sheridan’s follow-up, Sicario: Day of the Soldado had big shoes to fill, and it missed the mark by a longshot. With all of the surface and none of the depth of the first film, Day of the Soldado is an dreadfully boring experience, offering up static characters, lackluster action sequences, and anemic themes.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado centers on del Toro and Brolin’s characters , as they continue their M.O. from the original. Namely, causing chaos and destabilizing the Mexican drug cartels, by starting a war between them. When their mission goes awry, del Toro and Brolin are set at odds, and each is forced to “do what they gotta do.”
The first Sicario film presented the story from the perspective of FBI agent Kate Macer, played by Emily Blunt. Not only did she give an excellent performance, but she was a surrogate for the audience: a lens through which we can experience all the horrors of the war on drugs, a voice to ask the questions we all had. In Soldado, there is no such surrogate. With the story centered on Brolin and del Toro’s hyper violent, seemingly amoral characters, the film has no moral North, and no one to ask questions. Therefore, the violence put on display feels less like it’s there for us to critique and question, and more for us to revel in. Where once the quick violence left the audience in horror at how easy it was for these men to take lives, the quick violence in Soldado only served to bore.
Brolin and del Toro are both exceptional actors, bringing life to nearly every role they inhabit, but their characters in Soldado are written dead on arrival. At times, they are compelling in their interactions with the world and each other, but largely their characters are flat and uninteresting. They begin as amoral monsters, and they pretty much end there, with what little change they experience going entirely contrary to their characterization for much of the film, as well as the entirety of the film that preceded it. The sloppy writing in this film led Soldado to be an even worse film because I watched its predecessor.
I walked into Sicario: Day of the Soldado confident in Sheridan’s ability to tell a neo-western story. Unfortunately, it didn’t approach the harrowing nature of its predecessor, reveling in the violence while having nothing meaningful to say about it.
Author: Josh Johnson