I had inklings that screenwriter Taylor Sheridan might have some Fox News Dad tendencies as far back as Sicario. Not enough to totally ruin his movies, but... reservations. So when Sicario announced a sequel and the poster for it came out looking like an Affliction shirt, I was already worried that everything that felt mildly xenophobic about the original might, in the sequel, become an orgy of Oakley guy flexing.
Prepared as I thought I was, even I didn't fathom how closely Sicario: Day of the Soldado would mirror The Way of the Shadow Wolves: The Deep State and the Hijacking of America, a self-published novel allegedly written by Steven Seagal. In that book, with foreword by felonious scumbag former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Seagal peddles Jade Helm-esuqe scare fantasies that'd be funny if people didn't believe them. Here's a snip:
What troubled John [Seagal's clearly semi-autobiographical protagonist] even more was that the country was asleep when it came to the "OTMs" or "Other Than Mexicans" coming across a virtually open southern border into the country and possibly assembling for what America had never known before—a jihadi caliphate.
Seagal's book is a smorgasbord of prepper-dad paranoia, spiced up with racist stereotypes and homoerotic self-mythologizing. 2icario is less overtly unhinged than that, but it does open with an Islamic terrorist chanting "Allahu akbar" as he blows himself up, surrounded by a group of border crossers in the middle of the Sonoran desert. (Which is weird, because what was his goal there, to kill Mexicans?) This leads to another graphically depicted suicide bomb scene set in a grocery store.
I try to put politics aside in movies, but it's hard to lose myself in a story when the jumping off point is "Jihadists are streaming across our border."
And the movie isn't even about jihadists. They're merely the set-up to the government declaring Mexican drug cartels (who control the borders) a "terrorist group." This declaration, in turn, clears Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) character to really fight dirty against these cartels. You know, unlike in the last movie, which ended with the assassin he hired, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), killing a drug lord's entire family while they ate dinner.
So Matt quickly settles on a plan to start a war between rival cartels, which will... I dunno... accomplish... something? It's consistently hard to tell if his goal is people dying or people not dying. Anyway, Matt invites Alejandro back to the party and they start doing lots of shady stuff, including kidnapping the daughter of one of the cartel heads, apparently as a way to frame a rival cartel.
Things quickly go south (mainly because Mexico is so corrupt!), and the new goal becomes trying to save the daughter. Which is weird, because this is not a movie where the characters generally care about collateral damage. Matt literally blows up a Somali pirate's house via drone strike in the second scene.
Like Seagal's book, it's all built on a foundation of right-wing paranoiac fantasies, but the only real ideology is that the government pencil necks in charge won't let salt-of-the-Earth tough guys like Brolin's character do their jobs.
Day of the Soldado is convoluted enough that you can almost enjoy it for Brolin and Del Toro's hypnotic acting and ignore the ever-present cloud of noxious politics, and there are times you wonder if it's xenophobic or just nihilistic. But there's a cumulative effect to the way it depicts anyone Mexican: In another scene, a drug lord tells a teenage flunkie to execute a captive, and then shoots the kid when he can't go through with it. It's an exact copy of a scene from Seagal's book.
Does that mean Sheridan (and director Stefano Sollima) are the same as puppy-killer Steven Seagal and person-killer Sheriff Joe? No, but Sicario 2 does parrot the same false, gross assumptions that help shape their poisonous world view. This is bogus sensationalism for terrified white dads. And it's pretty much the last thing anyone needs.