Friday, June 29, 2018

Solid second 'Sicario' mixes relevancy, terror with room for another sequel

"Sicario: Day of the Soldado" doesn't have world-class director Denis Villenueve back at its still-sturdy helm. Regardless, another Taylor Sheridan screenplay again features the tough-as-nails duo played by Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, this time with a young newcomer (Isabela Moner) offering the sturdy distaff presence left behind by the departed Emily Blunt.

Del Toro's "sicario" tries to lead Moner to safety along a dangerous border.
Moner, 17, who was born right here in Cleveland and next will star on the big screen as "Dora the Explorer," admirably goes toe to toe with Del Toro's mercenary "sicario" (which means assassin) and Brolin's black-ops specialist. Together, they literally use her in a complicated plan to uncover terrorists being smuggled into the U.S. by Mexican cartels.

"Using" actually is too soft a term to describe their Department of Defense-instigated plot, since Moner, as the daughter of a cartel kingpin, gets kidnapped, bullied and badgered throughout Sheridan's gripping new tale of corruption on both sides of the border.

Certainly the people-smuggling scenes wreak of despair and timeliness, especially considering all the immigration talk in today's headlines, but the new "Sicario" also explores the seduction of a seemingly good kid (Elijah Rodriguez) into a gang of ruthless drug lords.

How the two stories eventually cross paths is neatly maneuvered by first-time feature director Stefano Sollima, as are a number of powerful action moments, including two memorable sequences in the film's first 15 minutes. Heck, Sollima even leaves plenty of room for another sequel, which logically might include the return of Blunt's FBI specialist from the thrice-Oscar-nominated original.

That near-masterpiece from Villenueve ("Arrival," "Blade Rinner 2049") easily became one of 2015's top five films. Right now, anyway, "Day of the Soldado" remains simply the summer's most riveting sequel.

Rated "R": Strong violence, bloody images and language; 2:02: $ $ $ $ (out of $5)

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