The first Sicario was rightly applauded for its intense and nerve-shredding action sequences. This sequel doubles down on that, with violent and grittily realistic set pieces that often leave your stomach in knots of tense anxiety.
Sicario 2's opening scenes are especially awful, even if their explosive climax is a tad emotionally manipulative.
Unlike its predecessor there's no rookie to bring up to speed here. This is a good thing as it frees up Josh Brolin's no-nonsense operative Matt Graver to go about his deadly business in efficient fashion instead of spending the first half of the film being annoyingly smug about what he knows that you don't and that he can't tell you because it's classified ...
That plot device absolutely killed my enjoyment of the first Sicario, so I greatly applaud this move, even though it comes as the cost of Emily Blunt's FBI agent Kate Macer, who does not appear in the sequel at all.
Instead we follow Graver and Benicio del Toro's returning undercover operative Alejandro Gillick as they work to stop Mexican people-smugglers from transporting terrorists across the border. They're ordered to instigate a war between Mexico's ruthless drug cartels in the hopes of making the crossing unattractive to the terrorists. Graver hatches a scheme to kidnap the teenage daughter of one of the drug lords and frame a rival cartel for the job.
While the kidnapping goes to plan, the returning her back to Mexico part goes deadly wrong, leaving Graver facing hard calls and stranding Gillick alone in the desert with the girl and surrounded by enemies on all sides.
With the real life news focused on the Mexico/American border right now Sicario 2 is incredibly timely, even if it feels beamed in from a parallel universe that doesn't have a president promising to build border walls and issuing family separating policies.
But that doesn't stop Sicario 2 from being a hugely enjoyable, superbly acted, mostly realistic, incredibly tense action-thriller. And that's from someone who disliked the first one ...
Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Catherine Keener
R16 (Violence & offensive language)
Tense action and timely story sees Sicario 2 hit the mark