Latino Critics on “Sicario: Day of the Soldado”
Posted on July 8, 2018 at 8:00 am
I didn’t like “Sicario: Day of the Soldado.” But I made no pretense of being fit to evaluate its portrayal of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. So I was glad to see this round-up of responses to the film from Latino critics. All are worth reading in full. Here are some highlights.
If you are someone who can actually sit in a theater and watch this film without thinking about its political implications and how it feeds into the Trump narrative (even with its mid-movie glimpses of truth) then this is clearly for you. For the rest of us who believe there should be a certain level of responsibility to what’s put on screen, the mere existence of a work so blatantly obtuse signals the terrifying possibility that those who already dismiss the lives of immigrants and Muslims will find new ammunition for their hatred here.
It’s not that cinema shouldn’t explore the complex relationship between Mexico and the United States in a provocative manner, the problem is that writer Taylor Sheridan has a taste for writing stories where people of color are a central component, yet their perspectives are ignored (see Wind River as another example). He makes it obvious that his gaze is that of a straight white American male who can write a good thriller, but gives little importance to non-white characters aside from making sure stereotypes are perpetuated.
Nearly every Latino in this film is either an unnamed (or unseen) cartel member, is paid off by the cartels, wants to be in the cartel, or is generally associated with drugs….Having just rewatched the first feature, Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro is also problematic. This is a man who had no compunction killing innocent children in the first movie, yet will sacrifice himself for a teenage girl in this one. (Taylor Sheridan is a little too fascinated with foreign teenage girls.) Del Toro is perfectly fine, but this movie doesn’t get a cookie for having one prominent Latino in the cast who supposedly isn’t terrible. In the times we’re currently living in, I don’t need to pay $20 to see Mexicans erroneously portrayed as horrid people.
The latest Sicario, as ham-fistedly written by Taylor Sheridan, has a kind of vacant timeliness, lacking any nuance in its depiction of incendiary issues. Of course, the filmmakers couldn’t have known that this border thriller would be released in the midst of one of the worst immigration crises in the nation’s history. But context is sorely lacking. Why does a quiet middle school kid get mixed up in shepherding refugees for cash? Virtually all the Latino characters in the film are portrayed as clichéd villains – drug dealers, dirty cops, or greedy kids taking advantage of hapless immigrants.