Of drugs, hitmen and the lows governments sink to

Of drugs, hitmen and the lows governments sink to

English (A) Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin and Emily Blunt

Probably the most overused word to describe underhand or hand-in-glove dealings between organised criminals and law enforcement agencies is “sordid”. Then again, if ever there was a film that could be best described by that word, its “Sicario”, meaning hitman.

FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt) feels responsible for the deaths of her colleagues killed in a blast while raiding a drug-cartel house. CIA man Matt Graver (Brolin) guilts her into volunteering to team up with him and Alejandro (Del Toro), a man of vague antecedents or origin, to take down the head of the drug cartel responsible for Macer's coworkers' deaths.

But all is not what it seems. Macer soon finds herself questioning if she has done the right thing, as she and her presence are used time and again to subvert the law.

Denis Villeneuve maintains a deceptively plodding pace as he helms what starts off as a wham-bam flick that soon settles into a slow but deliberate gait, which has the audience in one of two positions — riveted either to the back of the seat or at the edge of it.

The pace makes for some wonderful cinematography, where even urban — but not upscale — Mexican cities teem with character and dust particles dancing in shafts of light set the mood. So, when that crawling pace gradually gathers a certain deliberateness, it draws the audience in for a ride where sparse dialogues and music couple with some good acting on behalf of the lead trio.

While Blunt is good as the FBI agent with a heart and a conscience, Brolin is intriguing as the CIA man who gets the job done any which way. The true virtuoso, however, is Del Toro, whose subtlety is frighteningly menacing.

But in the end, it is the slow pace that lets “Sicario” down. The story's barely inches forward for minutes together, and it makes the mind wander from what is otherwise a really good film. The narration also seems somewhat erratic, and some of the more interesting characters could have been developed more.

This is indeed one of the better films of the year, but probably not the best.

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