Stefano Sollima's ultra-violent crime thriller Sicario: Day of the Soldado satirizes some of Americans' most despicable, imperialist impulses but somehow seems as though it is from a quieter, more decent time -- and that's depressing. Because nothing the Americans do, here, is good or right in its sensationalized portrayal of the wars we wage -- the wars we have always waged. But, hey, there are some sick one-liners, and somewhere in the convoluted plot is a heart-pumping chiller of a story with no easy heroes.
Elite DOJ special task force shit-starter Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) is tasked with starting a war between the cartels. The story's real focus turns out to be Graver's rogue recruit Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), promised by Graver a chance for revenge against those who killed his family, which also was his motivator from the last film, unless he got and lost a new wife and daughter in the interim. Either way, Alejandro is in, expertly kidnapping 16-year-old Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner) from the fancy security detail that is transporting her from school to her mansion. Alejandro and the Americans set up an elaborate "rescue" situation, making Isabel think that they're the good guys who just stumbled into this cartel war, but she's a little too observant to buy it. There's some double-crossing, an ambush, and the team gets split up -- with Alejandro and Isabel stuck in the Mexican desert. Alejandro and Isabel's scenes are the best thing in the movie, as she comes to recognize her complicity in her father's business, even as just a child. Del Toro and Moner say everything that's needed with pained, bewildered eyes.