Sidling itself up there with the sort of unmitigated xenophobic bile that was Clint Eastwood’s vulgar work of fiction American Sniper comes the unnecessary (and unnecessarily) hated filled vulgarity sequel Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay works like a Trumpian propaganda piece with its unrelenting punishment of Mexicans, repugnant stereotyping and toxic masculinity.
Welcome to Taylor Sheridan’s America. After writing such films as Sicario, Wind River, Yellowstone, and Hell or High Water, he returns with his follow up to the aforementioned 2015 entry Sicario. All his outputs have similar themes, grizzled American male archetypes posturing in a modern setting but what sets Sicario: Day of the Soldado apart is its relentless hatred of anyone that’s not.
Opening with a preamble that’s been constructed to give every Trumpian right wing, terrified, gun toting white person a hard on, Soldado imparts to us knowledge that the Mexican drug cartels are trafficking Muslim terrorists from the Middle East via ships to cross the U.S. border. Can you just imagine how many gun-cocking boners from the NRA that opening gave? They just shoehorned Islamic terrorism into people smuggling and drug trafficking across the Texan border.
Enter Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), the tough as nails ‘dirty worker’ for the government, who is engaged to start a war between rival drug cartels in Mexico for the purpose of not directly involving the U.S. but getting the supply chain broken. (? Don’t worry it doesn’t make much sense in the film, either). To do this he enlists a local source Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) and together they stage a plan to kidnap the Reyes Cartel boss’ daughter Isabel (Isabela Moyer) and make it look like a rival crime gang did it to start a mob war. Of course, it all goes pear shaped with a hail of brutal gun violence.
Replacing original director Denis Villeneuve, Italian director Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah, Suburra) has none of the character building skills of his predecessor and, instead, employs tactics of extremism throughout to deliver the most racist film to come out of the U.S. since American Sniper.
All the Non-American characters in this are either duplicitous, criminals, drug dealers, crooked lawyers, smart-mouthed teenagers, gang bangers or morally compromised. With the exception of Alejandro, no depth is ever given to any of them. It’s just a string of xenophobic stereotype after stereotype as we are told Mexicans don’t care about human life, that they all run around with weapons, that all the police and government officials are bought by the cartels, that they have less value than their American counterparts. That they are animals – fodder for the crimson wave of gun and artillery fire to come and wipe them out. Oh, and it’s clear that all Mexican women are either Michelle Rodriguez or versions of.
That it is so relentlessly hammered down your throat scene after non-sensical scene is staggering. The movie hate Mexicans, we get it. All of its problems can be solved with murder, we get it.
An attempt to forge an emotional bond between Isobel and Alejandro is laughable given she is never allowed oxygen or interaction with him to form a bond. When, as signposted as it is, the big ‘moment’ comes for the characters to need each other, it’s as dismissive as it is stupid.
Alongside that, this script’s insistence to force machismo bullshit down your throat like it makes you a man is entirely unwelcome and overplayed. A soldier gets shot in his shoulder and his response is to do a Predator-style Jesse Ventura ‘I-ain’t-got-time-to-bleed‘ moment without actually saying the words. Another when Matt is washing a major wound on his arm to which a medic says ‘You’re going to need stitches‘, and his unflinching response ‘That’s the great thing about this wound, it’ll need stitches tomorrow‘ and shrugs it off. Well, no, you idiot, you’ll either bleed to death or cop a massive infection. That’s just a couple of examples of toxic masculinity on display here – there’s plenty more Americana dick swinging to endure here.
Catherine Keener turns in her worst and most comatosing performance ever. It seriously looks like someone woke her up from a 14 hour sleep and said ‘Action’. Or maybe it was the thunderously dull overbearing score from Hildur Guðnadóttir that nauseated her as much as me?
I could go on but I won’t. I’m still filled with rage that this sort of unmetered hate drivel can find its way to mainstream cinemas. I’m bracing for the soon to come tweet barrage from Trump himself quoting the film as a historically accurate document. In the meantime, I cannot endorse or support a work that so flagrantly and recklessly trumpets xenophobic bile like this.
SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO is in CINEMAS NOW!