Released back in 2015, Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario rightly ranked among the best films of the year, helped by a powerhouse central performance from Emily Blunt.
Both an engaging thriller and powerful look at the brutal reality of the Mexican drug cartels south of the border, the film featured equally effective performances from both Del Toro and Brolin in supporting roles.
Even so, when news broke that a sequel was on the way, minus both Villeneuve and Blunt, fans were understandably skeptical as to whether it would recapture that same magic.
So, it’s a relief to report that any such concerns have proven unfounded with Sicario 2: Soldado effectively upping the ante with a film that’s absorbing, action-packed and scarily authentic.
With no Blunt to call on the action refocuses on Josh Brolin’s federal agent Matt Graver, who teams up with Del Toro’s Alejandro to take on the cartels who have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border.
Directed by Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima, who is best known for the crime drama Suburra and the critically acclaimed series Gomorrah, Sicario 2 moves at break-neck speed for its first half, establishing the plot over a series of striking and well executed set pieces.
Graver is front and centre for much of this, with Brolin in his element as the ruthless stop-at-nothing government agent, switching from meetings with high ranking officials to the torture with high-risk suspects.
Del Toro, too, is given more screen time to flesh out his character, with Alejandro’s story dominating the film’s second half.
Tyler Sheridan, who wrote the first film, returned to pen the script to the follow-up and it’s his addition that proves key. Sheridan knows these characters inside and out and is able to effectively flesh them out from the previous film without going over old ground.
The dialogue crackles in the scenes involving Brolin and his crack team of operatives, with Jeffrey Donovan’s Steve Forsing back again cracking wise and taking names, while the addition of Catherine Keener as Graver’s boss is an inspired bit of casting.
Sicario’s biggest strength lies in the execution of its action set pieces – a daylight execution of a high-ranking Cartel lawyer and another long-running firefight that comes during an attempt to transport a prisoner over the border stand out in particular.
A subplot surrounding one boy’s integration into the cartel also works well, adding another string to Sicario 2’s bow.
Not everything is perfect; the film dwells a little too much on a storyline that sees the young daughter of a cartel boss kidnapped by Alejandro, leading to the kind of run-of-the-mill lone hitman and surrogate daughter stuff we’ve seen in everything from Leon to Logan.
But his is nit-picking: Sicario 2 is an intelligent action thriller, anchored by two charismatic and absorbing performances from Del Toro and, in particular, Brolin.
Fans of the original will enjoy it while the film works well as a standalone effort. Roll on Sicario 3.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.