The first sequence in the "Sicario" sequel seems straight out of the POTUS playbook for why he thinks "the wall" must be built.
Middle Eastern terrorists are shown sneaking over the Mexican border with the help of drug cartels, after which they head straight for a Midwestern mall loaded with suicide bomber vests to wipe out innocent shoppers. So stereotypical, these caricatures may as well have the words "bad hombres" stenciled on their backs.
Although the previous entry in the proposed "Sicario" trilogy dealt with dark dealings at the border with hard-edged artistry, thereby illustrating the murky relationships between drug lords and law enforcement, its follow-up turns to a kind of comic book approach. Instead of relying on the tension from not knowing who's working for whom and why, everything here is spelled out.
All the subtlety, all the nuance is gone, and now under screenwriter Taylor Sheridan and director Stefano Solima (taking the helm after Denis Villeneuve), it's your basic Chuck Norris kind of movie.
Granted, it still has the smoldering presence of Benecio del Toro as the mysterious Alejandro, but now we learn some of his back story and what his motivation might be for doing what he does with such cold intensity. Emily Blunt is gone as the FBI agent from the first movie, and that's a shame because she formed the rational and intelligent core of a story that was seriously testosterone heavy.
In this film, U.S. law enforcement is under pressure from the president -- who, by the way is never named -- to stop these terrorist attacks in the homeland. So, they invite federal agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin, who seems to be in a lot of movies lately) to offer his expertise.
His idea is to forget about pushing back on people coming over the border and instead focus on who's doing the dirty dealing. He proposes to find a way to start a war between the cartels that will interrupt their smuggling business.
Because he's the only one to pull it off, and because the feds prefer to not get their hands dirty, he gets the green light. Under the table, of course.
His plan, which is not that complicated, is to kidnap the teenage daughter of one of the wealthier drug lords and make it look like a rival gang did it. What follows involves the transfer of young Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner) from safe house to safe house while trying to elude just about everybody. In this movie, the cartels control everything and everybody. This is where Alejandro comes in.
In the meantime, we are also introduced to a teenage boy named Miguel Hernandez (Elijah Rodríguez) who lives with his hardworking mom and siblings across the border on the U.S. side. Tired of being poor, he soon falls in with a sleazy coyote named Hector (David Castañeda), who shows him how much money he can make smuggling people across the border. As we'll see, it is to him that the subtitle refers.
While extremely violent, Solima's "Day of the Soldado" is well done, but it may leave the nagging question about who this movie was made to please. The first movie was a beautifully crafted exploration of covert machinations resulting in a blurring of lines. It felt real and gritty as a matter of consequence and independent of big budget studio interference.
The new film is the opposite. It feels manipulated, shaped by focus groups or executive decision-makers.
Still, the ending leaves a tantalizing thread we hope is followed into the last part of the trilogy.
This film was shot in New Mexico and costars Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener, Matthew Modine, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Taos actor Jon Kristian Moores as a border agent.
"Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is rated R for strong violence, bloody images and language.
It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For tickets, show times, and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
Also showing in Taos
The following were compiled from press materials.
MPAA rating: R for some disturbing violent images
Movies at the TCA
Forty-six year old Rev. Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is the pastor at the historic First Reformed Church in upstate New York. It is seen as the “tourist” church or the “souvenir shop.” That is partly because of its historical significance as a stop on the underground railroad before the slaves crossed into Canada. Meanwhile, a megachurch, Abundant Life, owns the church and operates a modern, self-named 5,000 seat church overseen by Rev. Joel Jeffers (Cedric the Entertainer).
First Reformed is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year, for which a major event is planned, modest in size only at First Reformed itself. However, dignitaries, such as the governor and mayor, will be in attendance and the event will be simulcast at Abundant Life. Most of the speech-making will be done by local industrialist Ed Balq (Michael Gaston), a major benefactor of Abundant Life and the major donor for the necessary upgrades at First Reformed to be able to hold the event there. Toller’s participation will be minimal beyond the introductory sermon.
First Reformed is generally a sparsely attended church. Toller doesn’t have to do much pastoral work although he does have the stock answers when asked how God factors into this or that situation in one’s life. Toller has long been divorced. His marriage could not survive the death of their son, Joseph, in war.
Because of that history, Toller believes he is incapable of human love despite a brief relationship with Esther (Victoria Hill), the choir mistress at Abundant Life, who is arguably still in love with him.
This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (July 8), and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (July 9-11).
Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for suggestive material, language and brief nudity
Mitchell Storyteller 7
After draining his life savings to enter a team in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem, Dax (Lil Rel Howery) is dealt a series of unfortunate setbacks, including losing his team to his longtime rival (Nick Kroll).
Desperate to win the tournament and the cash prize, Dax stumbles upon the man, the myth, the legend, Uncle Drew (NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving) and convinces him to return to the court one more time. The two men embark on a road trip to round up Drew’s old basketball squad (Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson and Lisa Leslie) and prove that a group of septuagenarians can still win the big one.
This began as a successful five-year, fan-favorite digital episodic series, originally conceived by Pepsi.
This film will be screened daily.
Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.