Tag Archives: Josh Brolin

“I can’t do that.” A review of Sicario: Day of the Soldado – by Josh Hains

In my review for Sicario, I noted that I had some difficulty shaking the movie so to speak, because seeing it in theatres had been such an impactful, resonant experience for me. I ended that review by saying, “It is assuredly an openly nihilistic (in the best way possible), unflinching examination of the thin grey line that separates wolves from sheep, and hunters from the hunted, with one hell of a bloodthirsty, tortured man in Alejandro dragging us blindly into a realm where darkness reaches out to darkness with battered hands and consumes its soul. And ours.”, and I think that ruling also applies to its sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, which plays a lot less like your average movie sequel, and much more like the intended standalone spin-off that was being advertised.

A group of suicide bombers walk into a crowded Kansas City grocery store and murder 15 innocent people, including a mother and her young child, during the most disturbing and frightening sequence in either Sicario movie that lets you know immediately, this will be a significantly darker venture than what came before. The American government suspects that Mexican cartels are now illegally transporting Islamic territory across the border (sound like anyone we know?) and in reaction to this suspicion Secretary of Defense James Riley (Matthew Modine) gives CIA operative Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) carte blanche to combat the increasing threat of these ruthless cartels. So of course Matt calls up his “big dog”, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro), to help him wage a war between the major cartels, which includes killing a high level lawyer for one of the cartels, and the kidnapping of Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner), the daughter of one of the cartel kingpins. In time, things go south fast when the President issues an order to the CIA to abandon the mission and erase all proof of American involvement in the false flag operation including Isabela, pushing Alejandro into brutal protector mode having bonded with her, pitting him against Graver and his team.

By now you have likely heard that for some, the absence of Sicario director Denis Villeneuve, the late composer Johann Johannsson, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and the Kate Macer character portrayed by Emily Blunt, is deeply felt throughout the entire running time of the movie. While Roger Deakins may not be the name behind the camera, Dariusz Wolksi does a remarkable job emulating the style and palette of Deakins’s work on the first movie, while also projecting a grittier, grimier image that adds to the low-key realism of the film, and the score by Hildur Guðnadóttir does a fine job of emulating Johannsson’s magnificent, dread inducing score of Sicario. Filling in for Villeneuve, Stefano Sollima successfully replicates the same style, atmosphere, and tone of the first movie, in a way that allows us to feel like we are back in that same world, but experiencing it through a different set of eyes.

There is no doubt in my mind that both Kate Macer, and Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya), could have been incorporated into Soldado in a multitude of ways if the script had gone in a partially different direction, much to the appeasement of those who were unable to see past their absence (more specifically, Kate’s absence), citing it as a major downfall of the movie. The question I have for those same naysayers is, how? How do you make her return feel natural and organically constructed, and not forced and unnatural?

Having seen the direction Soldado (which means “soldier” when loosely translated from Spanish) travels in without Kate (and Reggie), there is no denying that Soldado would have been a vastly different movie altogether had the character been brought back. Perhaps in the script for the impending third Sicario movie there is an opportunity to bring her back. Perhaps she experiences a personal loss or attempt on her life by the hands of the cartel, compelling her to become a Sicario like Alejandro. Maybe she joins Matt Graver’s task force because Alejandro was right, and nothing made sense to her American ears, she doubted everything they did, but in the end understood why it happened. Maybe she has no place in that movie either. Who knows? What I do know is, in my eyes her affiliation with Alejandro and Matt came to a close before Sicario ended, just as Alejandro told her the last lines of the movie: “You should move to a small town, somewhere the rule of law still exists. You will not survive here. You are not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves now.” Sure, I would have enjoyed her presence in this standalone spin-off, I do not doubt that Blunt would have knocked out yet another terrific performance, and Soldado would have been better for it, but I’m perfectly okay without her being there.

I disagree with the notion that the violence of Soldado is in any way, exploitive, or over the top, or unnecessarily ugly, which differing opinions suggesting that the movie only contains this violence because the filmmakers weren’t smart enough to convoy anything else, and not because it needed to be there. Obviously the violence is in service of the plot, and it occurs naturally so. In Sicario, the task force operated within a particular set of rules of engagement, including not firing unless fired upon, which we saw come into effect during the notorious border scene. Here in Soldado, carte blanche allows them to kill freely, so when they swiftly execute a truckload of gang members as efficiently as they did those border crossing cartel members, without having to be fired upon, it inherently creates an ugly aura to the violence, perfectly befitting of the new rule free, carte blanche perspective of this horrific crime infested world established in Sicario.

As one would expect from the next Sicario movie, the performances across the board are once again top notch. While actors like Jeffrey Donovan (reprising his role from the first movie), Matthew Modine, and Catherine Keener add gravitas and depth to their supporting roles with subtle nuances in their physicality, and grounded, authentic delivery of dialogue, it’s the principal trio who will take the most credit for truly knocking it out of the park. Anyone underwhelmed by Isabela Moner in Transformers: The Last Knight (which I haven’t seen, yet) will be pleased as punch to see her impress with a performance that elevates what could have been another in a long line of shallow kidnapping victim performances. Josh Brolin still so effortlessly manages to tow the thin line of playing someone with an intimidating record and a hefty amount of authority, who can be coldly serious, calculated, and unflinchingly, efficiently brutal if need be, while also projecting a relaxed “Chill out bro, let’s go catch some waves,” kind of attitude that allows Matt Graver apt exist within the Sicario world as a multi-dimensional character, and not merely a one-sided archetype.

I hold particular fondness for the way in which Taylor Sheridan writes Alejandro, and the subtle way Del Toro has portrayed him across both films, and has stolen every scene he’s been in. He cuts through any given scene (and both movies in their entirety) like a hot knife through butter, a true scene stealer but in a quiet and controlled manner. One might be inclined to incorrectly categorize the performances as minimalist, with so few lines because he convinced both Villeneuve and Sollima to allow him to remove lines so he may play in silence more often, adding to the allure and mystery of the Sicario while his powerful performance, quite often nothing more than the look in his eyes and/or the expression upon his face, helps us see the living layers within the man. The softness we first saw from him in Sicario, that showed care in how Kate was feeling after the attack on her, comes through all the more in tender scenes between him and Isabela, and during a delightful scene with a deaf man.

Make no mistake, the cold ferocity is still boiling like molten lava within him, it’s just that we are privileged to see more of the man who used to wear that skin long before the land of wolves tuned him into one.

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Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 does what any great sequel should do: blasts the first one out of the water. Well, kind of. In terms of quality and fun, it’s *as* brilliant as the first and manages to capture that scrappy, irreverent charisma once again. Where it excels over the first is what’s built onto that blueprint and improved upon, namely a way better villain than that Jason Statham knockoff they had the first time around. Although not as developed as he could be, Josh Brolin’s Cable is a formidable, aesthetically slick presence that calls to mind Arnie’s T-101 subtly, while giving the actor room to bounce and banter with Wade Wilson. As for the Merc? He’s funnier, sadder and more larger than life in this one, his rampantly raunchy sense of humour made even more so by intense personal tragedy. One of the key assets of this story is an ironic romantic heart amidst the glib antics, and that wisely gets played up here; Wade is a badly hurt guy in more ways than just physical, and as Cable dryly points out, he uses humour to mask inner pain (reminds me of me). That’s the core of what makes him so relatable and engaging, and by now Reynolds is so good at playing this role he should get a fifty picture deal. The plot here is admittedly thin, but in such a ramshackle narrative packed with supporting characters and gags both visual and otherwise, that’s understandable. The best running joke involves Wade & Co. recruiting a short lived mutant team that includes Bill ‘Pennywise’ Skarsgard, Terry Crews and a cameo so quick and hilarious I won’t spoil the fun, but keep your eyes peeled for The Vanisher’s split second closeup. They don’t last long though and not since MacGruber have I witnessed wanton, hysterical negligence and ineptitude in friendly fire casualties. Deadpool stands out because it broke the mold of nearly all superhero films to come before; its R rating allows it t have the kind of unbridled fun that the genre should have sparked from day one. The first film pioneered a very specific brand of mischief and debauchery.. this one takes the concept and runs with it and the results are pure summer movie bliss.

-Nate Hill

Ole Bornedal’s Nightwatch 


It’s always curious to me when directors remake their own projects. Sometimes it seems redundant and risky, and one wonders what compels them to revisit already trodden territory. In Ole Bornedal’s case it’s a creepy murder mystery called Nightwatch, made once in his native language of Danish, and again as a slicked up Hollywood version featuring some heavy acting talent and a reworked script by none other than Steven Soderbergh. I’ve only seen the newer one, and despite some awkward, clunky moments in the narrative, it can get pretty squirmy and frightening when it wants to, especially any scene involving a young Ewan McGregor stuck alone on a morgue graveyard shift. Creepy concept, and in some scenes it’s really milked to full effect, but there’s also few really silly and unnecessary subplots, particularly one with McGregor’s daredevil buddy Josh Brolin, and his girlfriend (an underused Patrica Arquette. When the film focuses on its main horror storyline it works quite well though. There’s a killer loose in the city, one with a penchant for necrophilia, and no one wants to have the night shift at a mortuary with someone like that running about. Nick Nolte adds class and charisma to his role as a weary, grizzled police detective who’s searching for the killer. Nolte rarely sets foot in the horror/thriller side of things, but his looming presence and concrete scraper sounding voice fit into the atmosphere terrifically. There’s a couple cameos as well, one from John C. Reilly as an ill fated police officer and an amusing Brad Dourif as the morgue’s cranky duty doctor. If Borendal had trimmed the fat in places as far as subplots go, given a bit more edge to the script and overall just tweaked it more it could have been a cracking good thriller, but as is it’s only above average with a few spots that really shine. 

-Nate Hill

Spike Lee’s OLDBOY

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For a film directed by Spike Lee, written by Mark Protosevich, and starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olson, Sam Jackson, and Sharlto Copley, OLDBOY gets a lot of unwarranted and obnoxious criticism. Of course, the original film is terrific, and a game changing cinematic explosion; as is this film. It’s a reinvention of the remake wheel.

Those who have seen the original film, or know quite a bit about it, know the beats. They know the twists and turns. The remake offers something new and refreshing as it builds upon what made the original film great, only to accentuate it. The third act big reveal is darker, the main character has more of a backstory, and there are newly formed characters that flesh out the story.

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Josh Brolin has rarely been better. He gives a transformative performance as the deplorable Joe Doucett. Within the first few pages of Protosevich’s script, he not only manages to make Doucett unlikable, he makes you loathe him. Yet as the film closes its second act, we begin to root for him, waiting for him to rise up and get his revenge. Brolin is fantastic, he physically and mentally transforms, and it is a marvel to watch.

Sharlto Copley still remains one of the best actors who has yet to reach a broader audience, and he turns a chilling and demented performance that is even more transgressive than the root of the antagonist’s motivations in the original film.

Part of one’s cinematic journey is acceptance. More times than not remakes are immediately cast out of a cinephile’s pallet. Especially when that remake is a film that the highbrow’s hold so sacred and dear as if they were the first to discover it.

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The beauty of the remake is that it takes the source material very seriously, even rooting a lot of what is on screen from the original Manga graphic novel. The film isn’t a shot for shot retelling, nor is it a lazy attempt to capitalize on a sexy foreign property; it’s a parallel retelling of an ultra violet and taboo story that most often Hollywood is afraid to touch.

While some may not particularly care for the film, at the very least they should appreciate the craftsmanship and seriousness this film was given and spend less time trying to score points with like minded peers with tunnel vision regarding the original film.

B Movie Glory: Slow Burn


Slow Burn is.. odd, to say the least. Living up to its title, it pretty much goes nowhere, tagging along with James Spader and Josh Brolin as they stumble around in the desert, both hitting on treasure hunter Minnie Driver, who constantly outwits them. This kind of lower budget, steamy stuff just seems to have a licence to languish, in the sense that story is of little concern, it’s more about mood and episodic character interaction than anything else. Spader and Brolin are doing the ‘Of Mice & Men’ shtick here, playing two hapless escaped convicts, one a sharp tongued weasel (Spader) and the other a dimwitted lug (Brolin). They’re kind of lost, in both perpetual arguments and the vast Mojave around them, when they run into Driver, whose presence, and the idea that there’s a whole whack of diamonds buried out there somewhere, inevitably stirs things up. The diamonds belonged to her parents, and there’s hazy scenes relating back to a tragedy involving her gypsy father (Chris Mulkey, briefly) and a mysterious character played by Stuart Wilson who serves as pseudo-narrator as he wanders around out there too. Got that? It’s ok, they barely explain it better than I just did, I’ve seen the thing twice and I’m still not sure how it all adds up either. Sweat, sand, sensual looks snuck between Brolin and Driver, dreamy atmosphere, threats of violence from Spader’s overacted, crazy eyed moron, a treasure hunt and general lack of cohesion is all you’ll find out here in this desert. Good for an absent minded watch or for background noise, not much else though. 

-Nate Hill

Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man: A Review by Nate Hill 

Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man is one of the most scummy, awful, overblown ridiculous shit masquerading as a movie that I’ve ever had the misfortune to see. It’s also entertaining on a level that suffocates you with unpleasantness and knowing stupidity at every turn. Verhoeven has taken what could have been a fascinating and suspenseful premise and turned it into a one note, bottom feeding genre pile of piss that is pretty hard to sit through. Scientifically inaccurate (not that that matters in this terrain) relentlessly unpleasant, super awkward and an all round disaster, it’s still pretty compelling to witness, like a school bus on fire. It’s a wreck to be sure, but there’s plenty of glee to be found, if you’re feeling masochistic. Kevin Bacon has laid down a path of many asshole characters over the years, but Dr. Sebastian Caine just takes the cake. He’s an egotistical, psycho sexual maniac in charge of an underground research lab, working on a brand new cheeseball formula to make the invisible man. He’s creepy and possessive with his girlfriend  (poor Elizabeth Shue) callous to his lab staff (Josh Brolin included, before his second coming, as well as Kim Dickens) and an all around jerk off. But that’s really nothing compared to what happens when the formula works, effectively turning him invisible, with a few nasty side effects. He goes from a nasty dude to an all out monster as he starts to arbitrarily prey and perv out on his co workers in their underground bunker, going full on Lon Chaney with a side of Ted Bundy in a grating performance that is a career sinkhole for Bacon. I read Ebert give golden praise to the special effects in a scene where he teansforms from visible to invisible, but i have no idea what he was smoking that day because they are an abysmal effort. Verhoeven always has a sort of knowing layer of hedonism blanketing his work, but this one takes it to a whole new level. Hey, at least there’s a cameo from the always welcome William Devane! The rest is just a vomitorium. There’s a sequel floating around out there with Christian Slater, I’m curious but have never have come across a copy. 

DENIS VILLENEUVE’S SICARIO – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

“You should move to a small town, somewhere the rule of law still exists. You will not survive here. You are not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves now.”

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SICARIO is a blunt unveiling of the dark side of America’s foreign policy.  Set on the Mexican border, the film follows a shadow team made up of different agencies shaking down drug cartels, all the while the team plays kingmaker by rearranging power.  The plot and political commentary is dense.  Not once does the film come across as heavy handed, nor does it preach bias.  In turn, it makes the film that much more powerful and brutally honest.

The brilliant cinematic team of filmmaker Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins (who are reteaming for the untitled BLADE RUNNER sequel) are a force to be reckoned with.  Villeneuve keeps a taut and thrilling pace, while Deakins composes remarkable visuals frame by frame.  Taylor Sheridan’s icy script, Johann Johannsson’s score, and Joe Walker’s editing complement the film in a perfect way, keeping the tight narrative intact while balancing such heavy subject matter.

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The cast is led by the idealistic Emily Blunt, supported by the realist CIA man Josh Brolin, and the lethal assassin Benicio Del Toro who all give career high performances and play off of one another in a way that meshes the film together wonderfully.  Blunt is amazing.  She’s more than a badass woman with a gun; she’s the heart of the film.  She’s out for blood after members of her team get killed on a cartel raid in the opening scene, and she’s lured in by the affable Brolin, promising to cure her bloodlust if she comes along on his secret mission.  Most importantly, the reality of what the team is doing slowly starts to grind at her, and she quickly begins to realize that what they are doing is not the “right” thing to do.

Benicio Del Toro is the standout in an already masterful film.  His stoicism is this mysterious fuse that is slowly burning.  The entire film, we know nothing about him, until the third act where we learn everything in one short and impactful scene.  The scene is so jaw dropping, that even upon rewatching the film; you can’t believe it is actually happening.

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There are few Hollywood films that are as bold as SICARIO.  The thematic elements are heavy, as is the brutal violence, but what the film is saying is what makes it so powerful.  Sometimes America needs to bring down the iron fist to be the overall good guy.  Regardless of morality or holding ourselves to a higher standard, the world needs a shadow team like the one in SICARIO to help restore and counter the evil powers that be in this world.