Directed by Stefano Sollima | Written by Taylor Sheridan
The first Sicario staring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin gave us a gritty across the border and back look at drug cartels and the US government’s involvement to try and control them. In this sequel, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin are back but this time there are no rules (as Brolin’s Matt Graver character comments at one point in the film). Sadly, this isn’t strictly true and this is what makes the second half of the film fall flat. The trailers lead you to believe there will be a huge clash between Brolin and Toro but unfortunately, this never happens.
Here come the spoilers.
The film starts off, quite literally, with a bang. Terrorists walk into a Kansas City shopping center and detonate explosive vests in a suicide bombing attack. Matt Graver is brought in to instigate a cartel war among the bosses in Mexico so they are preoccupied with fighting each other and the flow of people across the border slows down. It’s never made clear how this would actually work but we are already supporting Graver in his quest to seek some sense of revenge/justice. Yet you have to ponder; did this actually stop future terrorist acts? Particularly as Graver is informed later in the film that the terrorists who blew up the shopping center were not from overseas, but rather from New Jersey. Wow, what an emotional punch to the gut that was!
The plan to start this war is to assassinate a member of one gang and then kidnap the daughter of another cartel boss in assumed retaliation. Everything moves along according to plan until delivery of the girl back across the border is ambushed by cops paid off by the cartel seeking to kill the girl or hold her for ransom. Graver’s team kills the cops and is left with a huge international incident. Soon his operation is cancelled and he is told to clean up the mess. This means he has to kill the girl and del Toro, who he sent off to track and find the girl after she ran away from the earlier ambush. Alejandro, played masterfully by del Toro, eats the screen alive with his quiet and deadly hitman character. Yet he gets caught out by being seen by a boy who saw him before in a Texas parking lot. He is surprised by the Mexican smugglers on the bus bringing him and the daughter of cartel boss to the border as they are trying to get back to the States against the wishes of Graver and his superiors. Lucky for Alejandro, he set off a GPS locator for Graver to find them and Graver’s team eventually gets the girl. But instead of killing her, Graver takes her to the States to enter witness protection. Graver thinks Alejandro is dead which perhaps is what brings about his change of heart.
That entire section of the film is flat-out boring! The first third of the film sets up something epic to happen and instead we get del Toro shot through the mouth in the desert. So, how to make this film better? Have Alejandro notice the extra guys on the bus and he can get a leg up on them before they ambush him. Have Graver’s team descend upon the bus chaos to extract the girl and then we have the set-up of Toro versus Brolin the trailers promised us. Have Graver and Alejandro go head to head with Alejandro taking out Graver’s team one by one along with the gang members. Graver can call in a drone strike to take out Alejandro and believe he is dead. Graver can still take the girl to the States for witness protection but the young gang member can escape this final fight and we can have the end scene of Alejandro talking to the kid to recruit as a Sicario. Our guys live to fight another day and we get the final fight we wanted to see.
So in closing, deliver the promises you make with your movie trailers. That is what would have made this a great film.
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