SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO: - As if McAllen weren’t already on the national news enough lately, now it’s even one of the settings (Since the city depicted is adjacent to the Rio Grande River which is surrounded by a border fence, it actually looks more like Hidalgo.) for this follow-up to the gritty 2015 film about the futility of the American drug war in Mexico. But when the cartels begin trafficking terrorists across the border resulting in suicide bombing attacks (That feel like they’re aimed at the anti-Muslim crowd.), a federal DEA agent (Josh Brolin) spearheads a rather nebulous plot to turn the drug gangs against each other by kidnapping a kingpin’s daughter (Isabela Moner). It’s a storyline lifted from the Japanese classic film YOJIMBO (1961) and it rather overlooks the fact that south of the border narco gangs are perfectly capable of warring against each other with precious little help needed from outside sources. But the renegade scheme eventually takes a back seat to the crises of conscience and moral ambiguities faced by Brolin (DEADPOOL 2) and his vengeance seeking hitman (Benicio Del Toro). But what Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay lacks in establishing coherence in its’ story, it makes up for with intelligent dialogue and violent action sequences executed with gory panache. The ensemble cast is top-notch with plaudits to Del Toro (See CLOSING CREDITS.) who underplays his role to near perfection with more than adequate support from newcomer Moner who we see transformed from a feisty, take no crap “tweener” more than willing to punch any of her tormentors in the face into a dead-eyed juvenile numbed by the carnage she’s witnessed. Not surprisingly, this sequel doesn’t pack the cynical punch of its predecessor and feels like it’s a narrative in search of an idea or theme. It’s sort of about drug and human trafficking on the U.S.-Mexico border, but it really isn’t. And it’s kind of about immigration, but not quite. Having said that, the movie does manage to pack an occasional wallop and it can’t help but benefit from the timeliness of the immigration controversy that’s ongoing even if it never had the intention of doing so. But what it does accurately point out in the storytelling is that some of the key players in the drama surrounding border drug and immigration issues will continue to be children. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other good movies starring Benicio Del Toro - LICENCE TO KILL (1989), THE INDIAN RUNNER (1991), FEARLESS (1993), THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995), SNATCH (2000), TRAFFIC (2000)*, THE PLEDGE (2001), THE HUNTED (2003), 21 GRAMS (2003)**, SIN CITY (2005), THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE (2007), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), INHERENT VICE (2014), SICARIO (2015), AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

*Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor

**Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor