I don't have a lot to say about the exhausting SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO.
If you're like me (or are me) and loved SICARIO, the first thing you're going to say when talking about SOLDADO is, "SICARIO didn't need a sequel." It tied up the story and character arcs for the two principal characters: Kate (Emily Blunt) and Alejandro (Benicio del Toro); the story doesn’t need to carry on, but this is Hollywood, baby.
As we learned at the end of SICARIO, it doesn’t matter if you take out a major crime boss, more will pop up. Reminds me of the ending to the excellent CITY OF GOD, when all of the significant gangsters are killed off, and the kids take over, becoming more violent and vicious than who we just spent a few hours watching. Since SICARIO was a critical hit and there was enough curiosity to see what Alejandro would do once he accomplished what he so patiently had set it to do, a sequel was bound to happen.
SICARIO has everything going for it: del Toro's commanding presence, Blunt’s terrific navigation through the plot, Taylor Sheridan’s sharp screenplay, Roger Deakin’s always beautiful cinematography, the late Jóhann Jóhannsson's hypnotic score, and Denis Villeneuve's stylish direction. SOLDADO has almost everything going against it: bad direction, frivolous plot holes, implausible characters, and an asinine final scene.
The only thing good about SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO is seeing del Toro on the big screen. He’s electrifying and in SOLDADO, shoots guns in hip ways and throws live grenades in gangster's cars while driving down a desolate highway like it ain't no thang.
But these scenes aren’t enough to make SOLDADO a good movie, or even an OK sequel. It's subpar at best, and that's being generous (and depressing). Under the direction of Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah tv series), SOLDADO is a cash grab that spends most of its time setting up for a third movie (which the incredibly talented writer Sheridan has said for some time was the plan; his entire third act was changed by Sollima which from what I have been told, would have made for a much more pleasing ending).
In SOLDADO, the stakes are higher and this time the beloved, violent antihero Alejandro is let loose on Mexican cartels (all of them, if there were only two) -- groups now considered terrorists to the U.S. by the U.S. government. He's given the freedom to do what he needs to wipe out the cartels in creative and violent ways by the secretary of defense (played by Matthew Modine) who believes is responsible for bombings happening around the united states. So Alejandro and SICARIO's Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) are allowed to "get dirty" and do what's needed to get this job done (which we learn in the last shot of SICARIO, is impossible. Take out a crime boss and another eager trigger-happy thug will take his/her place; take out an entire crime syndicate, and another will take over.)
To be fair to Sollima, it's pretty impossible to top -- or even match -- Villeneuve, a director responsible for ENEMY, PRISONERS, INCENDIES, ARRIVAL, and BLADE RUNNER 2049. His vision is slick, and aside from two cool shots in the movie, SOLDADO doesn’t have much to impress.
It’s also confusing. In SICARIO, we learn what’s happening (or not happening) through protagonist Kate’s eyes. SOLDADO is pure chaos, and we’re not too sure what is happening. I supposed Sollima wanted to go for the unreliable narrator approach, but not having a lead guide us through the A.D.D. madness is frustrating.
While watching SOLDADO, I never felt uneasy and anxious like I did for SICARIO, which has some of the most anxiety-inducing scenes in cinema (the border shootout is one of the most intense scenes in cinema). Sure, there are some great action sequences, but they’re not focused enough for the audience to see what is actually happening. There are some great action scenes in SOLDADO, one is quick and unforgettable. Unfortunately, most of the movie is.
I’m done talking about SOLDADO now.