By Wayne Townsend
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is the standalone next chapter in the Sicario series of movies from Lionsgate. Diverting only slightly from the first film Sicario (Spanish for Hitman) this film still maintains most of the compelling elements from its predecessor. A change in directors hasn’t altered the style that made the first film feel original. The characters are stunning brought to life by stars Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, reprising the roles from the first film. The violence, graphic but not gratuitous, is necessary to push the plot forward. This is a brutal world inhabited by men that know their place in it. Brolin is a CIA black operative tasked with all the dirty jobs the U.S. government deems necessary but is the Buck Stops Here guy as it pertains to deniability. del Toro is his hand pick, personally trained agent of death in the field who understands the steps needed to carry out these missions to their successful completion. Matthew Modine is the politician who cuts the checks through the new congressional edict that has elevated drug cartels to the same status as terrorist groups. Brolin tells them to accomplish the desired effect he would deploy the same tactics used in the conflicts abroad, bringing them uncomfortably close to home, in Mexico. Things go awry, del Toro is cut off, left to defend himself from both the Mexican authorities and his boss, Brolin, while protecting the teen-aged girl they kidnapped earlier in the film. Written by Taylor Sheridan who also wrote and directed the brilliant and underseen Wind River in 2017 (currently on Netflix). Sheridan’s refreshingly minimalistic use of dialogue allows the actors to emote, and the audience to think for themselves. This creates the ability for the audience to connect with actions taken, immoral as they appear to be, by the characters who at first glance don’t appear to have any. Sicario: Day of the Soldado lacks the impact of the first film. In fairness, 2015’s Sicario was great, so the bar was set high. However, Sheridan was still able to fashion a good film different from the usual Hollywood fare. I liked it. Not a date film, unless all parties can look past the violence and appreciate character studies and moral dilemmas of hard men living in a dangerous world. 3 ½ out of 5.