If Denis Villeneuve‘s near-masterpiece Sicario went out of its way to be several shades of grey, then Stefano Sollima’s follow-up goes for none more black. And if the TV show 24 showed us the necessity of torturing suspects to avert terrorism during Bush II, then the Trump Era has finally found its poet.
No waterboarding sissy’s
We start with seeing Islamic terrorists come across the Mexican border before they suicide bomb themselves in a shop in Kentucky (why we need a wall). Then we move onto the interrogating of an African who may possibly know something. The man in charge of this is no waterboarding sissy (“that’s what we do when we aren’t allowed to use torture”). Instead, as Trump campaigned for, he starts killing the man’s relatives by drone strike. This, of course, works like a charm. Only took one houseful of dead civilians.
Separation, the US version
Then we move on to the plot. Turns out Mexican narco gangs want to smuggle terrorists into the US to bring up border security and hence crank up prices for their product. Because there is nothing that narcotics smugglers like better than more border guards. Inevitably, the Defence Secretary concocts a plan to get all the rival gangs killing each other, because that strategy worked so well in Iraq and Afghanistan. The best way to do this is to kidnap a drug lord’s daughter. Well, any excuse to separate Latino children from their parents, I guess.
The plot is as stupid as the morals are reprehensible, and the characters fare little better. Badasses Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, introduced in the last film, finally get to do things their way without interference from sissy civilians. After killing scores of Mexican policemen (in self-defence, of course), the US government, in the form of a career woman, washes their hands of them. “Did you really think you would be allowed to change anything,” she says. No doubt she is referencing the pre-Trump Era.
Del Toro, who was quite happy murdering a drug lord’s offspring in the last film to avenge his own daughter, suddenly changes his whole reason for being after snatching the daughter of the very man who killed his. Why she charms him so much more than former victims goes unsaid. We first meet her beating up a student at a Catholic girl’s school, knowing that she can get away with anything, and shows little improvement. However, her charms similarly work on the gruff Brolin who also abandons his life’s mission as soon as she sees her. Instead of killing her, like all the others he has been ordered to, or even returning her to her parents, he decides to put her in a witness protection program run by the people trying to kill her to testify against … himself? Her father? The only relief here is seeing Del Toro shot in the face, which gives us a glimpse of drama, but he spits the bullet out, Logan-style. Gritty realism indeed.
Is it a satire?
It is tempting to believe that this is all satire and that no one could possibly be as dumb as the makers of this film. But that’s giving too much credit in these Trumpian times. To say that the score, by Hildur Guðnadóttir, is the best thing here is like saying that “Can’t Always Get What You Want” is the best thing at a Trump rally and is no credit to the Stones. Sicario 2 is the most obnoxious film since the Soviet Army seized Babelsberg studios and Nazi Germany stopped production. We can only hope the Mexicans will liberate Hollywood soon.