‘Sicario: Day of the Soldado’ Review

Director: Stefano Sollima

Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Cast: Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Elijah Rodriguez, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Catherine Keener and Matthew Modine

Synopsis: The drug war on the US-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I was fortunate enough to get to watch Sicario: Day of the Soldado – it was still called Sicario 2: Soldado at the time – all the way back in February of this year, but had to sit on my thoughts because of an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). Now, the movie’s out and I can finally release this review. The review will be a combination of my first thoughts watching the movie, and my re-watch from this weekend. So, that said, let’s get to it.

Day of the Soldado opens by letting us know that the cartels make big business by trafficking people, and have now moved to terrorists. After a horrifying scene at a department store, the government has put the drug cartels on their list of dangerous threats. They call on someone with some experience in the field in Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to run an operation on taking them down. In turn he recruits his old partner Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) to help him, especially since Alejandro still has anger toward them for killing his family.

The mission is to make it look like the cartels are attacking each other, and one of those attempts is kidnapping the daughter of a kingpin, Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner). Of course, not everything goes as planned. Now, Matt and Alejandro have to figure out how they will survive with all sides closing in on them.

The first Sicario, which came out in 2015, was a surprisingly dark thriller that wasn’t afraid to go there and pushed our expectations on what a movie with this kind of material should be. So when a sequel was announced, many like myself, were eager to see what they would do, and how they would put us back into this world they created in the first film. Now, before we move on, obviously with the real-world issues going on at the border, it will probably be a little hard to watch this, without trying to bring it into the conversation. However, at this point, the conversation feels dated because the real-life issues are more horrifying. But, let’s just move on from that.

Unfortunately, Day of the Soldado doesn’t quite live up to the sequel expectations that the film should have had. The film at times feels rather empty, and instead of going for more character development or deeper story points like the first film did, it goes for the easy bloodshed and violence. That’s fine for the world the movie has created, but after watching Sicario, I wanted more of that great character development. Violence is expected in these movies, but I wanted more from the story itself.

On top of that, the sequel does feel like a proper sequel. By that I mean, even though the sequel has different people behind the scenes, they tried very hard – and sometimes actually pulled it off – to make you think the sequel was directed by Denis Villeneuve, and the cinematography was done by Roger Deakins. Of course, that’s not the case with the movie being directed by Stefano Sollima and the cinematography was done by Dairusz Wolski (Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, All the Money in the World). The score, which is great, was done by Hildur Guonadottir, who actually worked on the first film’s score and on films like The Revenant and Arrival. He builds off the amazing score that was done by the late Johann Johannsson, who sadly passed away between the films.

Thankfully, the cast is solid to make the missteps worth it. Brolin gets a bigger role in the sequel, and gets to play around with the character a lot more. Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro is once again great to watch, and how he engages with Isabela Moner’s Isabela and others – which aren’t many by the way – is good, but none of them are really like the Emily Blunt character from Sicario. Moner is fine as Isabela who knows what her father does, and uses it sometimes, but is still a young girl caught up in a bad situation. Everyone else like the returning Jeffrey Donovan as Graver’s other right-hand man, Steve Forsing, is a welcome sight, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo has a small but effective role, and Matthew Modine and Catherine Keener basically have cameo roles, especially Modine.

The only blemish on the cast, for me, is Elijah Rodriguez as Miguel. It’s nothing against Rodriguez and his acting, but rather the character direction or the lack thereof. The movie almost treats Miguel as someone we saw in the first movie, and that’s a problem especially considering where his character ends up at the end of the film. I wouldn’t consider this a spoiler, because it’s known – at least online – that after the success of Sicario, the plan was to make the series a trilogy. That’s made very clear with Miguel’s character, but for me, the character and the arc doesn’t feel deserved or developed enough for me to care.

All in all, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, for me, wasn’t as good as the first film. While it ups the violence you would expect from this world, it leaves behind the story and characters just a bit. That’s not to say the sequel is a bad movie, because it’s not. There are some standout scenes, and even some shocking scenes that I couldn’t believe they approved. The cast is still great, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of how they left the movie at the end, I would gladly step back into this world when/if a third movie comes out.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

3.5 out of 5

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‘The Magnificent Seven’ Review

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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writers: Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennet, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, and Matt Bomer

Synopsis: Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the classic Western of the same name, that was based on the classic film by acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa Seven Samurai, Antoine Fuqua brings is take to The Magnificent Seven with his own star-studded cast and great visuals of his own. I’ll be honest, I’ve been looking forward to this – and yes, I’ve seen the originals – but of course I actually don’t mind remakes and knee-jerkingly reject them just at the thought of it. So, was my excitement worth it? Or does it have to take a long walk into the sunset with my head down? Let’s load up our horse and find out.

The Magnificent Seven starts off by showing just what kind of person the heroes would be going through. The town of Rose Creek are being taken over by a mining corporation run by Bartholomew Bouge (Sarsgaard) who wants the townspeople to sell him their land, but when he shoots the husband of Emma Cullen (Bennett) – played by Matt Boomer – she goes to find men to help her and townspeople take back their town. She eventually finds and recruits bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington), who in turn brings in gambler and playboy Josh Farraday (Pratt) to help him bring in the best people to give the town a shot. The two haul in famed sharpshooter Goodnight Robincheaux (Hawke) and his knife-wielding partner Billy Rocks (Lee), an outlaw named Vasquez (Garcia-Rulfo), tracker Jack Horne (D’Onofrio) and Comanche Native American named Red Harvest (Sensmeier). All seven of them get together to protect the town, even with odds stacked against them. What follows is a grand – or magnificent? – finale that will make any Western fan happy.

(l to r) Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-hun Lee star in Columbia Pictures' THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.

(l to r) Vincent D’Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-hun Lee 

I know I watched the originals, but let’s focus on the Western here, but it was a while ago so I can’t remember too much of it. However, I do know Fuqua’s version is different in its own way, and makes sense for the story he’s trying to tell. I know many won’t, and don’t like the idea of a Magnificent Seven remake – even though it itself is a remake, but whatever – but the film is a lot of fun, and completely worthwhile for new fans or old fans.

The cast is what makes the remake really worthwhile. Washington has worked with Fuqua three times now, and continues to show the duo have a lot of fun together and are great together. Chris Pratt’s Faraday looks like he’s enjoying poking fun at his fellow cast members and being a bit of a playboy, but he does have a sense of pride and duty once everything goes down. Peter Sarsgaard’s Bogue doesn’t have enough screen time as he probably should, which is saying something considering the film is a bit over two hours. Haley Bennett’s Emma Cullen gets a lot of screen time at the beginning, but blends into the background as the film moves forward.

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Ethan Hawke’s Goodnight has an interesting arc, although it takes a while for it to really come up and it kind of just slides away. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne is a tracker that gets compared to a bear a lot, Byung-hun Lee’s Billy Rocks is the calm and collective one, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo’s Vasquez has a nice little rivalry with Faraday, and Martin Sensmeier’s Red Harvest has his moments.

Some, and even I’ll agree with some of it, will say the group gets together is too fast and there isn’t enough conflict between them. Especially since we hear that Jack Horne has killed a lot of Native Americans, and while their interactions with Red Harvest are minimal they never come off as standoffish but slight jabbing. It’s nice dynamic – all the characters have them – but it’s something that I know people will bring up. There are some other things that are never fully developed, but for the most part the film doesn’t suffer that much from it.

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The action is top notch and the final shootout is a sight to see. There is a lot going on in the scene, but you always know where you are and can follow the action throughout. It’s also pretty satisfying considering the film builds up to it for half the film. It also helps that the final shootout is great since right before the ending the film loses some steam and slows down.

All in all, The Magnificent Seven is a great, fun ride of a film. The cast is great and the final shootout is a great time. While the film may not be perfect in terms of some pacing issues and not going fleshing out some details, it is a worthwhile remake to a remake of a remake.

The Magnificent Seven

4 out of 5

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