I didn't see the first Sicario movie. It was just one of those things where every time I had the chance I was like, "Eh, not in the mood." The real downside of this, though, was that all of my "movie expert" buddies gave me long-winded speeches about how it was a glorious new take on the mafia movie (or something), and that Benicio del Toro was, like, so totally good. I still haven't seen it.

In the sequel, we join the clandestine world of shadowy government operatives who totally shift international power balances for the US government by doing subterfuge and torturing modern-day pirates and stuff. A returning Josh Brolin is one such guy—the kind of fixer who gets called in when the chips are down and gross stuff needs doing. This is why the Secretary of Defense (played here by Matthew Modine, who is presumably enjoying some Stranger Things heat) sends him to Mexico to kidnap a cartel king's daughter so said cartel will start a war with some other cartel. My dumb friends could probably tell you the girl's dad did something in the first movie, but I'll just tell you that Alejandro (Del Toro) wants revenge on this sucker, so he gets involved, too.

But nothing ever goes as planned in movies (that's pretty much the whole thing about movies), and as the sneaky cartel war kickoff party goes awry, we learn all kinds of nasty things about the cartels and America and even snot-nosed teenagers whose cousins think it's a good idea to turn them into illegal border crossing guides. Woof.

What hurts the most is the first hour's riveting setup and execution. We kind of love-hate Brolin's character, Matt-something, but we also hate terrorists so, like, who's the real bad guy here? We even start to develop a connection with the kidnapped cartel princess, which is right around the time the pacing slows to a slog and the players start to develop a collective conscience of some kind. Or do they? No, seriously—I'm asking.

As always, Del Toro is pretty great and Brolin really has perfected his disaffected tough guy shtick, but when a fantastic character actor like Catherine Keener is underused to the tune of pointlessness and the rest of the characters don't even get names outside of, probably, Shadowy Soldier 3, it stings. Director Stefano Sollima (you don't know him, promise) does his best, and there are some downright gorgeous shots of the desert, but Sicario: Day of the Soldado loses us right at the moment we'd been hooked. Oh, it's not that it isn't mostly entertaining enough for the most part, it's just that it seriously becomes boring. Drag.

+Killer beginning; pretty landscapes

-The slow but sure descent into boring

Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Directed by Sollima
With Del Toro, Brolin, Keener and Modine
Regal, Violet Crown, R, 122 min.