Sicario: Day of the Soldado Early Reviews: Leaner, Meaner, and A Little More Hollow

Critics say the follow-up to Denis Villeneuve's 2015 thriller is dark, violent, and surprisingly topical, but can't measure up to the first.

by | June 25, 2018 | Comments

(Photo by Richard Foreman Jr./Columbia)

Denis Villeneuve’s drug war drama Sicario didn’t make a ton of money when it opened in the fall of 2015, but the serious action movie was a huge hit with critics, garnering a Certified Fresh 93% on the Tomatometer and a bunch of accolades, including three Oscar nominations.

The sequel now arrives with a lot of anticipation from fans of the original, despite its change in director and cinematographer and loss of Emily Blunt’s main character. Does the follow-up live up to its predecessor? Not quite — it’s currently at 70%, with just 27 reviews counted — but many critics are recommending it.

Here’s a breakdown of the first reviews of Sicario: Day of the Soldado and why, for some, it’s a worthy continuation of the series:

First of all, you don’t need to have seen the original

It needs to be said that Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a great movie that doesn’t even feel like a sequel.
Conner Schwerdtfeger, CinemaBlend

Feels less like a sequel and more like a stand-alone film that you never signed up for.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

But how does it compare to the first?

[It’s] a sequel that’s every bit its predecessor’s match.
Jacob Stolworthy, The Independent

Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a different, leaner animal than the first film.
David Crow, Den of Geek

Day of the Soldado strips away the meaning and the hypnotic visual style from the original, and reveals that there’s not much more underneath.
William Bibbiani, The Wrap

It’s almost like screenwriter Taylor Sheridan misunderstood the appeal of the first movie (which he also wrote).”
– Matt Goldberg, Collider

And how does it compare to other films?

Day of the Soldado is our generation’s Rambo: First Blood, Part 2, a half-mad sequel transforming a traumatized political parable into a fantasy of all-American murder gods.
– Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

A truly twisted update of that most cynical of John Ford movies, The Searchers.
– Peter DeBruge, Variety

How is Stefano Sollima as director?

(Photo by Richard Foreman, Jr./Columbia)

[Sollima’s] execution is nearly flawless.
Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly

Sollima demonstrates a flair for gut-punch action.
Tim Grierson, Screen International

He inherits the reins of this series with confidence, mounting action scenes involving car chases, shootouts, and helicopter showdowns that feel startlingly real.
Todd Gilchrist, MovieFone

How is the script?

Taylor Sheridan reconfirms he is one of the best screenwriters working today.
David Crow, Den of Geek

He doesn’t necessarily have a compelling story, though.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

The new film desperately needs a character like Emily Blunt’s Kate Mercer, someone with a firm point of view to help navigate the chaos created by Matt and Alejandro.
Matt Goldberg, Collider

Is the plot timely?

Eerily topical.
Jimi Famurewa, Empire

A political thriller about illegal immigration and the kidnapping of a Mexican child by American agents sounds more topical than it actually is.
– William Bibbiani, The Wrap

Considering recent events…this movie hits a dissonant chord.
– Dwight Brown, National Newspaper Publishers Association

While the separation of kids from their parents may have sparked an international human rights debate, this is not the film to settle it.
– Peter DeBruge, Variety

Recent developments in the real world make Sicario: Day of the Soldado feel instantly dated.
– Witney Seibold, IGN Movies

How is the action?

Sicario 2: Soldado begins with one of the year’s most scintillating, pin-you-to-your-seat opening sequences and only cranks things up from there.
– Jimi Famurewa, Empire

So much of the action feels real and avoids a lot of stylistic trickery — or at least makes the trickery subtle enough to ignore.
– Todd Gilchrist, MovieFone

[The action doesn’t] come close to matching Denis Villeneuve’s; there’s really only one set-piece, a convoy on a dirt road, that approaches anything in the original Sicario.
– Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

The bloody violence has no sting or resonance — it is well executed, but in a mechanical, superficially rousing manner.
– Tim Grierson, Screen International

How are the two returning leads?

(Photo by Richard Foreman, Jr./Columbia)

Both Brolin and especially Del Toro register more strongly in their roles here than they did in the original… Together, they carry the film prodigiously.
– Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Both actors explore their newfound space in exciting ways and find new dimensions to their characters.
– Conner Schwerdtfeger, CinemaBlend

Brolin may coast capably on autopilot but, in Gillick, del Toro has found the role of his career.
– Jacob Stolworthy, The Independent

Brolin is again having a ball.
– Jacob Knight, Birth.Movies.Death.

How is new addition Isabela Moner?

Moner is revelatory.
Todd Gilchrist, MovieFone

She gets a spiky introduction, but her character’s reduced to a symbol of Alejandro’s moral code, a Plot Thing That Must Be Rescued.
Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

Is this a worthy sequel?

[Sicario’s] successor digs in its dramatic claws from the outset and keeps the tension high and dramatic twists coming.
– Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Sicario 2 is junk, but it’s stylish junk.
– Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

If you want to see Del Toro and Brolin inflict carnage again, without the pesky straight-laced Emily Blunt character in the way, then Sicario: Day of the Soldado is probably your kind of movie.
– Kyle Anderson, Nerdist

Should we look forward to another Sicario movie?

The film ends in a way that totally sets up a third film, which I’d happily watch.
– Mike Ryan, Uproxx

The way things are left here, there is certainly potential for much more from the intrinsic material and surviving characters if Sheridan cares to pursue it.
– Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

A wallop of a closing scene…sets up a third installment in the Sicario saga. Buckle up and let’s go.
– Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly

Bring on the third film, where those left standing just kill everything in their paths.
– Jacob Knight, Birth.Movies.Death.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado opens everywhere on Friday, June 29. Read all the reviews for it here.

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