Cinematic Releases - Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018) - Reviewed

One of the first major disappointments of 2018, Stefano Sollima's tepid sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado (Assassin: Day of the Soldier) is a celebration of mediocrity. Where the original film explored the dark contradictions of the American drug war, the latest offering is a half-hearted bait and switch, promising no-rules brutality and delivering a forgettable Traffic-lite affair.

CIA Operative Matt Graver is called back into action after an attack on American soil, told by his handlers to enact retribution at any cost. After a betrayal (Yes, another one) at the border, Graver and his assassin Alejandro are put at odds with one another. Taylor Sheridan's script features many of his trademarks, and yet, there's an underlying sense of hollowness that clings to everything. The plot is contrived, including an outright betrayal of the mantra of films such as this. The main issue is that the paranoia, confusion, and blurred lines of morality that made Sicario great are sidelined for odd action sequences and pointless side plots. The war on drugs is a terrible beast, risen from the depths of ignorance and political grandstanding, and Soldado is only concerned with exploring these issues via tired exposition and skin deep emotional cues. 

Benicio Del Toro's menace is a shadow of its former self. Still, there is an amazing sequence of dialogue done in sign language that steals the limelight, a reminder to the viewer of the glory of the franchise. Yes. Franchise. This film is a symptom of the cancerous, avarice that has gripped the box office and the nonchalant sacrifice of greatness is on display in virtually every scene. The first act is sensational, mimicking Villeneuve's malicious universe, however, as the story shifts into a surrogate father parable, the tension breaks. Josh Brolin continues to gleefully embody Graver, showing how much fun one can have with a role, while Jeffrey Donovan thankfully gets more screen time and dialogue. The rest of the cast are forgettable tropes, cardboard ghouls in a cemetery of boredom.

Dariusz Wolski's cinematography emulates Deakins whenever it can, but in between stunning wide shots of the desert and parachuting assassins are uninspired compositions of sterile environs. Hildur Guonadottir's pulsating score is a plus, building on the same ominous notes of the original to give monstrous qualities to the soldiers and their quarries. However, this ultimately serves as a painful reminder of how great this film could have been. 

In theaters tomorrow, Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a passable, but painful sequel that no one asked for. Doubling down on the surface level ideas of the masterful first film, this is the definition of a cash grab that will most likely disappoint anyone looking for something fresh. Still, there are glimmers of greatness throughout, particularly in the main performances and in several beautiful shots of the desert. If you're interested in delving once more into the sand swept wastes of the Cartel Empire, this will barely suffice. If you're looking for something new, this will disappoint, perhaps even incense.

--Kyle Jonathan