With little regard to building suspense
Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado
forcefully shoves its viewers into the hot pot premise of its first instalment. Right at the get go, it’s obvious that part two too is going to be about human trafficking, drug cartels and plenty of violence. Immediately, after the opening crawl, you’re wondering then what’s the need for a sequel that chases the same direction as the first? But then
Day of the Soldado
will surprise and disappoint in equal measures.

For reasons that are convoluted and also very convenient, ruthless Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is back to destroying Mexican drug cartels along with his pal and partner Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro). Their mission is to start a cartel war and then go after whoever is left standing. To do this, they will kidnap Isabel (Isabela Mondy) the 16-year-old daughter of crime lord Carlos Reyes who incidentally killed Gillick’s family. The duo intends to deposit Isabel in Reyes’ rival territory where violence will ensue. The plan, though, goes awry. Instead of executing her, Gillick goes rogue to protect Isabel. And Graver is then enlisted with wiping them both out.

Like its predecessor,
Day of the Soldado
comes ruthlessly alive because of its brutal action. While the intensity of part two’s violence might not peak as high as part one, it’s riveting nonetheless. It’s a sudden shot in the arm that cannot be ignored. The film’s body count is exquisitely vulgar and the characters’ callous dispositions are efficiently stomach churning. Add a haunting cello-driven soundtrack by Hildur Guðnadóttir along with Dariusz Wolski’s intoxicating Mexican sand-fuelled cinematography and the emotional upheaval is complete. These are the things
Day of the Soldado
will be remembered for.

Then, what the film gets wrong is its reckless screenplay and narrative. There’s a terrorist (which in American parlance is of the Muslim variety) angle that seems gratuitous. Especially since it’s out the window with very little exploration. Another subplot about a kid joining an illegal immigrant racket attempts to offer a jolt of empathy but ends up being unnecessarily excessive. For all the killing, shooting and brutality, the audience never warms up to the plight of the teenage girl. Like the film’s protagonists, we too end up wondering what the point of it all has been?

In the end,
Day of the Soldado
serves up the same brand of thrills instead of charting new territory. But it’s unfortunately not up to what Denis Villeneuve (director of
, 2015) would have served up. Competent performances by Brolin, del Toro can only elevate the film to an extent, the rest however, rests on director Stefano Sollima and writer Taylor Sheridan’s shoulders. Those posts however are weak and the film plummets despite its winning moments.

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