“Sicario” shows where the bodies are buried, and it’s so close to home as to be in the very walls of the American “house of horrors,” as a news broadcast calls the Arizona tract house at the beginning of the movie. Blunt’s relatable screen presence as protagonist Kate Macer is a fundamental part of what makes this film work better than its testosterone-driven sequel, “Day of the Soldado.” On the broadest level, Kate’s story is that of a person outmatched by a hostile world, where life becomes a relentless onslaught of punishing things that beats you down, strangles you, and holds a gun to your head until you have no choice but to go along with it.
Yet this is not entirely Kate’s story. While many films might pay lip service to the idea of a strong female character, Kate is as vulnerable as her FBI forebear Clarice Starling. She’s also American, and by the end of the movie, we’ve shifted perspectives from her to Benicio del Toro’s Mexican hitman, the titular Sicario, Alejandro Gillick.
After some onscreen text explaining how “the word Sicario comes from the zealots of Jerusalem, killers who hunted the Romans who invaded their homeland,” the movie opens with a sunny shot of a housing development in the suburbs of Phoenix. Almost immediately, any sense of domestic normalcy is shattered by the arrival of a SWAT team, clad in black bulletproof gear. For their targets, including an ill-prepared TV watcher inside the house, trouble arrives not on their doorstep, but in the form of a van crashing right through the wall. It’s not long before “Sicario” peels open the remaining walls to show the evil nesting right within our own heartland.