Posted on October 30, 2018
by Steve Janowick
The foreboding, heart-thumping, drone-like score gets louder and louder. We see the long, flyover shot of black, government vehicles snaking along a dust-covered, barren landscape headed toward God knows where. The camera then slowly pans left, and we see where they are headed and it’s not good. Juarez, Mexico could easily be mistaken for any Middle-Eastern war zone. The sounds of machine gun fire are heard off in the distance, their tracer flares illuminating in the shadows of delipidated buildings. The stench of chaos and corruption permeates the air. Rotted, decapitated bodies hung from their feet are strewn about alongside the road. This place is Hell. And in the approaching convoy, the Devil sits stone-cold and emotionless in one of those black Chevy Suburbans. Anticipating. Waiting for his chance to take another soul and collect another debt.
Alejandro Gillick is no longer a human man. The day his wife and little daughter were savagely murdered was the day he stopped being human. That pain and unthinkable grief boiled over within him and manifested itself into an insatiable desire for vengeance. Once a by-the-book criminal prosecutor, he now works as a Sicario (hitman), contracted out by the CIA who exploit that pent-up rage and who puppeteer the cartel wars that fuel all the violence. Now unleashed, he’s a killing machine surgically operating on the fringes of decency and sanity to get to the men at the top who’re responsible for his pain.
This premise in a movie is certainly nothing new. The revenge-obsessed man going full-on guns blazing to get at his family’s killers has been played to death in Hollywood. So why is Alejandro so damn effective and cool as a character in the first two films of this series? First, because he is so well written. He’s multi-dimensional, precise yet still fallible, and not weighted down by the usual, played-out, super-human clichés that are so prevalent in these types of movies. Second, because he’s directed by two dudes that allow him to look the part. Let’s call it like it is. Designer sport coats, slow motion, extreme close-ups and well-placed, calculated lighting can make even the dorkiest of dorks look bad-ass. Lastly, and most importantly, because he’s played by Benicio del Toro!
I’ve often argued that some of the greatest actors and actresses of all time never had to open their mouths to say a word. They could do it with just their eyes. And is there anyone in Hollywood today that can say more with just his eyes than this cat? Nope. Squinty, piercing and with dark, swollen folds under them, they can easily convey the entire spectrum of human emotions. But what they do best is magnify a menacing intensity bubbling just under the surface. This, along with his soft, muted voice inflection and understated movements, makes Alejandro eerily ferocious yet, somehow, still very real and believable. He plays him with the kind of scary cool that most men would if they could-not the ‘spastic, roid-head pummeling everyone in his path’ cool or the ‘Anton Chigurh, manic-psychopath’ cool.
Every red-blooded man has fantasized about being an Alejandro type at one time or another in his life. The brooding, solitary, loner roaming the badlands, ready to unleash hell and right the wrongs in a corrupt, unjust world. The coiled snake ready to strike. Vulnerable yet deadly at the same time. Able to gut his enemy at close range with a knife, put a bullet in his temple from three-hundred yards away or scare the shit out of him with just a sinister grin and thousand-yard stare. All the while looking cool as hell doing it.
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