“In Mexico, Sicario means hitman.”

The phenomenally talented Benicio Del Toro deserves the opportunity to headline a competent thriller, something he’s been denied for some time. Del Toro gets his chance with the mesmerisingly brutal Sicario, and he delivers.

FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt, reuniting with her Wolfman co-star) joins a non-descript, covert anti-drug task force, headed up by a man she only knows as Matt (Josh Brolin in a tailor-made role) where she is promised the chance to hit hard at the cartels who killed her fellow agents in a tense opening sequence. Travelling to Mexico, she meets the even more mysterious Alejandro (Del Toro), who, by way of explanation, simply goes where he’s told.

Del Toro is the star of this film, the centrally vague figure in the middle of a Chandler-esque drama where Blunt, who shares much of the intrigue and cluelessness foisted on the audience, has to sort baddie from goodie and figure out exactly what’s going on as everyone machinates around her.

Despite being originally introduced as a character through his vague and trite dismissals of Macer, Alejandro’s merciless ferocity slowly becomes the centre of the action, maintaining the narrative and focus throughout each key scene. Calm, savage and filling every moment with hardened conviction, Del Toro is an omnipresent force in Sicario; his shadow felt even in the scenes without Alejandro.

Blunt is no match for Del Toro and her segments, while captivating, are nothing compared to Marca’s encounters with Alejandro or the penultimate sequence where the focus of the film shifts entirely to his character. A seasoned action and comedy star (Edge of Tomorrow, The Devil Wears Prada), Blunt does not pull off her character’s more dramatic moments as well as she does storming a house or a group of bad guys. The latter, more action-heavy sequences proving too few and far in between, the filmmakers would have done better to focus more of the film on its most intriguing character and give Del Toro the much-deserved screen-time.

A conniving, semi-labyrinthine thriller in the best tradition of classic mysteries, Sicario is an exhilaratingly clever beast made all that much better by the welcome presence of its first-rate cast.

Sicario is in Cinemas 24th September

On The Big Smoke

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