Sicario: Day of the Soldado, B-
Rated R, 123 minutes
The flawed yet compelling "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is a sequel to the 2015 acclaimed film "Sicario" directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Emily Blunt. "Day of the Soldado" is missing both Villeneuve and Blunt as well as the original's dark tone and visual engagement, but this still has a couple of excellent turns and a handful of entertaining moments.
After discovering that Mexican drug cartels are smuggling terrorists across the United States border, the CIA sends Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and former undercover operative Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) to deal with the problem. They kidnap Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner), the daughter of a drug lord, in a false flag operation designed to incite war between rival cartels. The mission goes awry when it is discovered by the Mexican government, prompting Graver to order Reyes' death; when Gillick refuses, he turns rogue to protect her as Graver assembles a new team to hunt them both.
"Day of the Soldado" is a solid look at the fight between the U.S. and Mexican drug cartels, though it doesn't improve upon the first film. It's directed by Italian director Stefano Sollino and written by "Sicario" scribe Taylor Sheridan, and while it's missing Villeneuve's visual appeal and Blunt's bravura, it has another terrific turn from del Toro as well as newcomer Moner (seen in last summer's "Transformers: The Dark Knight") as the tough daughter of a cartel leader.
The first two acts work fine, but then it becomes a standard issue crime drama; the first one was able to blur the lines between the good guys and the bad guys, this time they're clearly drawn, especially when U.S. government officials Matthew Modine and Catherine Keener arrive on the scene. One nice, overlooked turn is that of "Burn Notice's" Jeffrey Donovan as a fellow CIA operative who gets in a few good lines.
"Sicario: Day of the Soldado" isn't as good as "Sicario" but it's a treat for del Toro fans, one of cinema's most underused actors (this time out, we learn he's a badass at sign language too, what does he not do?). Worth a look.