Sicario looks great but there’s not much going on

FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Opens Sept. 25
2 out of 5

Praised at Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival, Sicario looks poised to rack up statues during awards season, as the wonderfully shot action sequences (courtesy of reliable cinematographer Roger Deakins) will bring in the crowds.

Who cares? This critic says Denis Villeneuve’s latest feature is kind of moldy.

Emily Blunt is Kate, who’s recruited by a taskforce that’s targeting a particularly nasty Mexican drug lord. But there’s something amiss about this special operation — and chief among the worries is the presence of Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), a mysterious figure who’s waaay too competent with weapons to be a mere consultant.

The group’s increasingly irregular actions indicate ulterior motives: perhaps the task force’s ultimate goal isn’t to win the war on drugs? Mayyybe it’s to make the drug trade more manageable by collaborating with a single kingpin?

Sicario’s crimes are brutal and the responses are morally questionable — there’s little room for light in this world. But the film just doesn’t have anything interesting or new to say. We all know the war on drugs is expensive yet futile, and that Mexican drug lords keep entire cities living in fear. Yeah, we can guess that desperate, unsanctioned stings take place.

At least Sicario’s craftsmanship is remarkable. Villeneuve knows how to do gritty and how to amp up the tension. And Del Toro and Josh Brolin are strong collaborators who elevate the material.

It’s almost enough to trick us into believing this is more than glorified leftovers. Almost.