Review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado gripping follow-up

Is it a prequel, is it a sequel or doesn't it matter?

Whatever it is, the fans are thrilled Benicio Del Toro has returned to the big screen in another Sicario - and Day of the Soldado has just landed in Kiwi cinemas.

No Emily Blunt here, but this is the welcome return of both Del Toro and Josh Brolin, united in their mission to take down the bad guys.

Where the Mexican drug cartels were - and kind of still are - the bad guys in the first film, in this they are pawns in a far bigger geopolitical chess game. It's a game played back and forth across the US-Mexico borderlands, bringing with it a very real and relevant urgency to the storytelling.

It's dark, it's violent, it's unforgiving and it's very, very good.

Whereas the last Sicario was directed by the Oscar-nominated Denis Villeneuve, this outing brings in talented Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima of Gomorrah fame.

He doesn't let the side down, gently, brutally stitching together a layered and surprisingly emotional crime thriller that does not disappoint.

Writer Taylor Sheridan it seems is incapable of delivering anything underbaked. His ferocious follow-up is more standalone than prequel or sequel, and is as gripping a story as his Sicario.

Brolin and Del Toro are again so good together, the film missing only a few beats and some deep breaths that the Villenueve-Deakins combo gave us in the original.

Four stars.