Sicario 2: Soldado
Islamist terror meets drug cartels and Mexican immigration: thus, does Sicario 2 begin, in literally explosive fashion. What emerges after the opening set pieces, however, is strangely un-dramatic, despite the best attempts of Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro to re-create the amoral desert of the original Sicario (2015). While involving politicians making schemes in the background, Sicario 2: Soldado feels curiously blinkered, failing to provide a bigger picture. We get lots of shoot-outs and bullet-splattered vehicles, but it ceases to be an adult film of believable complexity at least halfway through.
The plot, for one thing, wasn't razor-sharp: we begin with suicide bombs within America's borders, and later updates about how Middle-Eastern suicide bombers are being shipped by cartel bosses to cause mayhem in the US. Already, a mash-up of Trump's worst fears had me wondering, 'Really?' I mused, in fact, if a Sicario 3 might consider Mexican drug cartels stealing from Jurassic Park a horde of dinosaurs to smuggle and cause chaos on the American border. Sicario 3: Jurassic Wall?
Regardless, the geopolitical manoeuvrings are quickly dispensed with. Josh Brolin's US Special Ops guy is tasked with causing mayhem among the Mexican cartels, by starting a cartel war with the help of his rough-and-ready, grudge-bearing companion played by Benicio Del Toro. This leads, however, to Sicario 2's biggest drawback, with the kidnapping of the tween-age daughter of a drug cartel boss, for soon Del Toro's character feels paternal affection for her, breaking with orders to shepherd her safely back over the Mexican border. Given Del Toro's own acts of merciless disregard for human life in the first film – at point blank range he shoots the young family of a drug cartel boss at a dinner table – I found this an oddly melodramatic story line to accept. Meanwhile another child character, slowly becoming part of the illegal-crossing industry on the border, fails to reveal any depth or development beyond a willing acceptance to kill in cold blood. The characterization in Sicario 2, in short, is sometimes shallow, and other times un-believable.
This is a shame, because I really wanted it to be good – I even think such films need to be good in the current climate. Narcotics, with their devastating impact on African-American communities in particular, is a topic deserving of greater attention, not least with the punitive policies of mass incarceration targeted against Black communities. Couldn't Del Toro's sub-plot have been replaced with more on the cocaine trade – and how crack cocaine (more common among Black communities) is focused on by law enforcement, while powder cocaine (more common among white communities) is given an easier ride? What of America's prison industrial complex that feeds off of mass incarceration – perhaps a plot line about how their business needs the influx of crack cocaine to ensure the arrests which lead to continued profits?But no. Perhaps recently I've been reading too much about the US's race-fuelled policies of mass incarceration against Black communities. Sicario 2 with this perspective is a Donald Trump special, a bang-bang-TERRORISTS!-immigration soup with sub-Spielbergian child narrative to warm the heart, leaving me to go home strangely unmoved.