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Film Review: The Hate U Give

“Violence. Brutality. It’s The Same Story, Just A Different Name…”

Based upon American author Angie Thomas’ 2017 award-winning novel of the same name, Notorious and Barbershop director, George Tillman Jr., returns with The Hate U Give, an idealistic, young adult drama which focuses on contemporary notions of inherent racism from the point of view of Amandla Stenberg’s (Everything Everything) Starr, a bright and strong-willed resident of the fictional neighbourhood of Garden Heights, a struggling and poverty stricken community infested with drugs and control from the infamous criminal gangs led by Anthony Mackie’s (Avengers: Infinity War) local drug lord, King. Attempting to balance the parallel worlds of her life at home and life at her out-of-town school situated in a predominantly white and more affluent area, Starr’s understanding of the world is turned upside down after she witnesses the death of her childhood friend, Algee Smith’s (Detroit) Khalil, by the hands of a young, white Police Officer, resulting in her grasping the reality of injustice within a society which seems to set black people up to fail as preached by her ex-con father played by Russell Hornsby (Fences).

Boosted by a screenplay bursting with substance and depth and featuring a stand-out central performance from Stenberg, The Hate U Give is an engaging topical drama which attempts to balance a wide variety of ideas with a high degree of success, and even when at times the central message becomes slightly messy and overly preachy, a particular scare tactic which might alienate and lose particular audiences who may struggle to put themselves in the shoes of someone in such a dangerous and disturbing American landscape, the central story is undoubtedly well told and follows in the footsteps of Spike Lee’s brilliant BlackKklansman by harbouring a central message which comments on the contemporary societal divide in the a Trump-era United States. Whilst the use of voice-over within cinematic releases can sometimes work with a high degree of success, particularly the way in which Scorsese has utilised the method throughout his career, Tillman Jr.’s movie does fall into the trap early on of favouring rather corny and irksome levels of exposition over allowing the audience to simply discover particular plot developments for themselves, yet as soon as the movie focuses on the central heated debate over the power and positioning of black people even now in a contemporary society, the action swiftly becomes thoroughly engaging, primarily due to the performance of Stenberg who manages to pull of being both believable and empathetic in her discovery for justice. With brilliant supporting roles from the likes of Hornsby, Common (John Wick: Chapter Two) and Regina Hall (Girls Trip) as Starr’s worrying mother, The Hate U Give is the type of YA cinema with a purpose and one bound to provoke discussion regardless of the audience observing.

Overall Score: 7/10

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Film Review: First Man

“You’re A Bunch Of Boys Making Models Out Of Balsa Wood! You Don’t Have Anything Under Control…”

With a career so far which features two modern masterpieces and a well deserved Academy Award win, Whiplash and La La Land director, Damien Chazelle, returns to cinemas this week with First Man, a biographical drama based on the true story of renowned astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and his involvement within the troublesome quest throughout the 1960’s to land on the surface of the Moon. Featuring a screenplay from Spotlight and The Post screenwriter, Josh Singer, the Academy Award winning American uses James R. Hansen’s 2005 biographical novel, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, as the primary basis for the depiction of events on screenand whilst Chazelle does indeed focus heavily on the spectacle of space exploration with terrifying precision and accuracy, the real examination within the film is Armstrong himself as played by Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049) who reunites with Chazelle after their successful partnership together on last year’s La La Land. With contemplations on the effect of grief and discussions regarding whether particular sacrifices fail to be justified in the discovery of the secrets of the universe, Chazelle’s latest is a thoroughly engaging and beautifully constructed work of cinema which although fails ever so slightly to maintain the American’s flawless cinematic record, is a bold and brave addition to history’s depiction of America’s greatest contemporary achievement.

With Singer’s screenplay choosing to primarily focus on the 1960’s Armstrong household which acts as the central cornerstone of the narrative throughout the film’s run-time, the audience becomes immediately privy to a broken and grief-stricken central relationship between Claire Foy’s (Unsane) Janet Shearon, and Gosling’s take on an American hero whose silence and introverted nature makes it hard to break the character down, a purposeful decision by Chazelle who utilises the performance of Foy to share the frustration of the audience in the failed attempts to crack the surface of a person tangling with not only the pressures of the grounded life around him but the wider purpose handed to him. Whilst Gosling is renowned for sombre, brooding performances in the likes of Blade Runner 2049 and Drive, Chazelle utilises the stern stare of the Canadian to create an ice-like template of a person attempting to nullify the pain of loss by succeeding at what he knows how to do best, and with the freedom offered to him in the emptiness and vastness of outer space, First Man chooses to view the Moon landings as an excuse for Armstrong to trade the loneliness and harshness of planet Earth for the the loneliness and harshness of the unexplored blackness waiting for him outside the atmosphere containing him on ground level.

With Chazelle once again utilising the now Academy Award winning skills of his movie-making team from both Whiplash and La La Land, composer Justin Hurwitz continues to impress upon the big screen with yet another impressive musical body of work, mixing classical strings with atmospheric snarls within a soundtrack which includes one particular track which clearly evoked Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” from 2001: A Space Odyssey with a slight hint of La La Land-esque romantic sensibility, and with Linus Sandgren returning as Chazelle’s cinematographer, the Swede chooses to shoot the grounded drama of the 1960’s with a grainy, Battle of the Sexes-esque aesthetic, saving the power of the IMAX cameras for the concluding journey into outer space, where vast darkness and utter silence has never looked so utterly beautiful. Whilst the decision to focus more on the man rather than the expedition may indeed alienate some audiences heading into a screening of First Man eager to witness an abundance of space exploration, Chazelle’s construction of the few shuttle set pieces when they do come are terrifying, evoking a maniacal sense of claustrophobia as the camera is literally shoved into a tin box alongside our daring heroes who come to realise that all that separates them from certain death is a couple of screws and some tightly woven, rather shaky metal. Choosing to focus on the emotional resonance of one man’s story against the backdrop of the Apollo missions, Chazelle’s latest is a lavish, visually stunning and perfectly acted character study which not only emphasises the young American’s luscious talent for producing memorable cinematic experiences but also highlights the ease in which a difficult tale such as the one central to First Man can be handled with such maturity and effortlessness. See it in IMAX.

Overall Score: 9/10

Film Review: The Little Stranger

“There Is Something Inside This House That Hates Us…”

Based upon Sarah Waters’ 2009 novel of the same name, The Little Stranger sees the return of critically acclaimed Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, a filmmaker whose previous venture in the form of Room garnered universal praise, including here at Black Ribbon, alongside a fully deserved Oscar win for Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson. With Abrahamson already being renowned for layered, thematic works of cinema which cut across a wide range of differing genres with ease, the same can be said for his latest venture, a dark, gloomy and overly Gothic portrayal of one man’s venture into the life of a secretive family burdened with privilege and wealth, yet one haunted by the faint echo of death which seems to have canvassed inside their once prestigious home. Reuniting with Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) after their work together on the comedic oddity which was 2014’s Frank, The Little Stranger does ultimately fail to live up to the excellence of Abrahamson’s previous two ventures, with a sluggish pace and lack of real narrative push surprisingly making the Irish director’s latest a real struggle for the most part, but with some rousing central performances and a fleeting number of creepy set pieces, The Little Stranger is still interesting enough to be seen.

Whilst gothic cinema is always seeped in inspiration from timeless genre classics including the likes of The Haunting and The Fall of the House of Usher from the central macabre figure of the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe, Abrahamson’s movie utilises the genre conventions as a somewhat secondary device, with focus primarily on Gleeson’s Doctor Faraday, a well-spoken and educated middle class local go-to whose envy of the Ayres family and their inherited fame and fortune has troubled and haunted him since childhood. With the movie latching onto Faraday’s point of view, his attempts to embed himself into the life and love of Ruth Wilson’s (Luther) Caroline leads him to unravel secrets and mysteries gently hidden within the confines of the Ayres family home, and whilst the movie only briefly contains elements of pure, spine-tingling horror, including a brilliantly constructed final act, these moments are undoubtedly the strongest of the piece, with the familial dramas and attempts at elongated character studies which make up the bulk of the run time agonisingly dull. With Wilson the standout performer of the piece, following on from her similarly creepy performance in the little seen Netflix chiller, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, Abrahamson clearly knows how to get the best out of his performers but fails, this time at least, in managing to fine tune both the pacing and tonal inconsistencies of a piece which deserved to be more rewarding.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: King of Thieves

“It’s So Disappointing When People Stoop To Backstabbing…”

Based upon the extraordinary Hatton Garden safe deposit burglary which occurred over the Easter Bank Holiday of 2015, a contemporary infamous act of criminality which has been labelled as the “largest burglary in English legal history”, King of Thieves, the latest feature by The Theory of Everything and The Mercy director, James Marsh, is the third adaptation of the events onto film after a couple of low-budget attempts including The Hatton Garden Job featuring the likes of Larry Lamb and Matthew Goode, but the first to hit the big screen, aided undoubtedly by a joyously star-studded cast which features the likes of Michael Caine (The Dark Knight), Ray Winstone (The Departed) and Jim Broadbent (Paddington 2) as the aged crooks who are determined to seal off their careers with one last job. With cocky attitudes, an abundance of cockney accents and enough chemistry between the cast to keep the enjoyment levels flowing, King of Thieves is a flawed but enjoyable, overly cliched heist movie which primarily suffers due to a inability to harness the film’s wildly inconsistent tones as it sways between comedy, drama and an overbearing sense that maybe at times, we’re having too much fun with what are essentially murderers and thieves.

With Caine’s Brian Reader acting as the central focus of the opening act of the movie in which we see an early loss act as a catalyst for his return to crime, the film’s opening forty five minutes is wildly entertaining as we are introduced to an eclectic herd of aged bad boys as they banter themselves to death whilst the central heist is planned, perfected and then carried out with eye-watering rewards. With the cast clearly enjoying themselves with seemingly ad-libbed sweary dialogue and particular members not exactly trying hard to be anything other than themselves, Mr. Winstone, I’m looking at you, it’s a particular shame that the second half of the movie completely bombs as Marsh attempts to juggle the seriousness of the effect the central crime has on those around it with a crow-barred notion of how our leading characters are actually violent murderers who are happy to off Police officers without an echo of remorse, and whilst the movie ultimately overstays its’ welcome by at least twenty minutes, King of Thieves is an odd little movie, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Yardie

“I Sent You To London So You Wouldn’t Start A War In Kingston…”

With hot rumours surfacing of him taking the role of the next James Bond and the return of BBC’s hit crime drama, Luther, in the near future, it’s fair to say that Idris Elba is indeed a busy, busy man, and with a fundamental warmth and undeniable likeability, Elba’s career seems to be going from strength to strength even when the steely-eyed few still remember Elba’s superb performance as Stringer Bell in the greatest television programme of all time, The Wire. It comes with a particularly heavy heart therefore that Elba’s directorial debut, a hazy adaptation of Victor Headley’s 1992 cult novel, Yardie, is unfortunately a plodding, strangely dull and overly cliched crime drama which fails to ignite the touchpaper of Elba’s switch from in front of the camera to behind it. With dedicated performances from many newcomers within the cast, an eclectic mix of groovy musical accompaniments and an obvious love for the source material from Elba, Yardie isn’t exactly terrible, but its’ major flaws are so crushingly obvious that it’s hard to paint over the cracks in order to make the film better than it really is.

Focusing on Aml Ameen’s (Kidulthood) Dennis “D” Campbell and his rise within the criminal underworld of a poverty stricken Kingston, Jamaica, the early exposition of the movie is recalled through the age-old use of voice-over, and whilst my own personal preference for storytelling undoubtedly favours a “show me, not tell me” format, Elba’s particular narrative technique does quickly become overly cheap and relatively boring as every single movement is described when the audience is already ten steps ahead.  With the movie primarily suffering from an utter lack of effective characterisation which results in the film simply being observed than truly being sucked into the drama, the overly familiar gangster set-up fails to carry any fresh ideas, even when its’ key characters on the surface are interesting but are unfortunately let down by poor writing and dialogue which is as hokey as it is sometimes undecipherable. With a groovy soundtrack and some smokey, 70’s era London cinematography, Elba’s vision for the movie is admirable but with the whole much weaker than the sum of its’ parts, Yardie is a yawn-inducing disappointment.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: BlacKkKlansman

“We Think You Might Be The Man To Open Up Things Around Here…”

With a staggeringly eclectic back catalogue which ranges back a whopping thirty five years, director Spike Lee knows a thing or two about film-making, and whilst recent projects from the influential American haven’t exactly been front and centre of the cinematic spotlight, the release of BlacKkKlansman opens to a wide audience bearing high expectations after reported critical acclaim and the prestigious honour of winning the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Based upon former police officer and detective Ron Stallworth’s 2014 novel “Black Klansman”, a written account of Stallworth’s infiltration into the Ku Klux Klan during the late 1970’s, Lee’s movie undoubtedly lives up to expectations, a staggeringly powerful and entertaining multi-layered drama which sees John David Washington, son of Denzel Washington, as the cocky, undenaibly likeable, Afro-wearing Stallworth who persuades his superiors within the Colorado Springs Police Department to be placed undercover alongside Adam Driver’s (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) Detective Flip Zimmerman in order to gain access into the secretive local Klan led by Topher Grace’s (Interstellar) unbelievably racist and anti-Semitic, Grand Wizard, David Duke.

Mixing comedy with police procedural drama alongside an overarching political cornerstone which not only emphasises the race-relations issues of the 1970’s period setting but the state of the United States political spectrum today, BlacKkKlansman combines the harsh, dangerous perils of undercover policing seen in the likes of The Departed and Eastern Promises with a constant stream of rib-tickling satirical gags as it moves deftly through its’ two hour plus runtime with considerable ease and a gloriously well-mannered pace. With Lee relishing the chance to emphasise the racial undertones to alarming degrees, the movie’s obscenely vile character’s are as hateful as the heroes of the piece are joyful to be around, with Washington, Driver and Laura Harrier (Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Patrice all on the top of their game in their attempts to create three dimensional, believable personalities each with their own personal sufferings and crusades, and with Lee’s skilful eye orchestrating a number of superb set pieces, including a heartbreaking juxtaposition between an old man’s tale of murder and the KKK applauding to a screening of D. W. Griffith’s 1915 controversial picture, The Birth of a Nation, BlacKkKlansman is undoubtedly Lee’s best movie for over a decade, a stunning work of blended drama which barely puts a foot wrong.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Journeyman

“When I Come Back Through That Door I’m Still Gonna Be Champion Of The World…”

With boxing continuing to be the most visceral and cinematic sport to be successfully transferred onto the big screen in favour of others who have valiantly tried and failed, sometimes rather woefully in fact, that’s right Goal!, I’m looking at you, Paddy Considine’s second swing at directing after the critically acclaimed Tyrannosaur in 2011 in the form of Journeyman takes a rather well-worn format within the tradition of boxing movies whilst attempting to add a sense of genuine realism to proceedings which can be somewhat absent from the bigger, flashier Hollywood examples that audiences have been treated to in the past. Mixing together the cruel, life-changing risk of the sport seen in the likes of Bleed For This and Million Dollar Baby with an independent, Ken Loach-esque sensibility, Journeyman works best when the film pulls on the heartstrings in a way which fails to feel either saccharin sweet or cheap, and whilst the pacing and drawn-out nature of the movie does ultimately weaken the film as a whole even with a ninety minute runtime, Considine’s second feature is a solid example of character acting at its’ most dedicated.

With Considine himself taking the lead role of Matty Burton, the recently titled middleweight champion of the world, a victory secured via default after his opponent was forced to back out of the fight, a chance for redemption and a true shot at retaining the title comes in the form of Anthony Welsh’s (Black Mirror) youthful yet arrogant Andre Bryte. With the first twenty or so minutes wonderfully low-key and engaging as we our embraced in the film’s attempt to juggle the relationship between Burton’s relationship with his job and the personal life he has with the brilliant Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who) as wife Emma and their newborn baby, the horrifying result of Burton’s fight with Bryte sets up the remaining hour in which we see Burton’s transformation from joyous, caring husband and father to the unrecognisable shell which has been put in his place. With outbursts of violence, mental incapacity and a terrifying “hide and seek” game within its’ brightest points, Journeyman does include the raw, realistic sensibility you’d expect from a British independent film, but with not enough push and a lack of real development come the crucial change half way through, Considine’s movie is a likeable but flawed second feature.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: A Prayer Before Dawn

“I Got No Family, No Money, Just Give Me This One Chance, I Wanna Fight…”

Based on “A Prayer Before Dawn: My Nightmare in Thailand’s Prisons” by ex-con and former drug addict, Billy Moore, Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s debut, high profile release elbows its’ way into cinemas this week, dragging along with it a bruising sense of harsh realism and the full-blooded nightmare of Moore’s journey as he is incarcerated within the confines of a Thailand prison for drug dealing and is forced to fight for his survival in a sense both literal and dangerous. Shot on location at Nakhon Pathom Prison, a staggeringly un-hygienic mosh pit of overpopulated prisoners, both dead and alive, where violence is mandatory for staying alive and gang rape is part and parcel of being proclaimed as the weakest in the populous, Sauvaire’s movie is a grueling, non-stop and overly horrific portrayal of survival which incorporates a menacing backdrop to iron over the cliches of the plot, even when the fundamental story is that of reality and not fiction, and with a standout central performance and an editing pace which works particularly well considering a complete lack of meaningful dialogue, A Prayer Before Dawn is a successful and daring directorial debut from a filmmaker unafraid to tackle the darkest tales of man and the instinct to survive, no matter the cost.

With Joe Cole of Peaky Blinders and Green Room fame playing the younger incarnation of Moore, his journey from angst-ridden junkie to dedicated fighter brings with it a frighteningly authentic physical performance, one which rivals Tom Hardy’s Bronson in Winding-Refn’s spectacular movie of the same name for levels of incarcerated danger, aside from the pantomime sensibility of the latter which is strikingly absent, and in its place, a much more humane and regretful character arc which develops as Moore becomes used to the ways and means of his newly found incarceration. With Cole’s powerful performance resulting in every jab, bruise and serious injury being well and truly felt, it’s a crying shame that the screenplay for the movie doesn’t entirely hold up to similarly spectacular levels, with the path of the narrative funneling through from a run-of-the-mill prison drama in the vein of Animal Factory or David Mackenzie’s equally gritty Starred Up, to a bog-standard boxing conclusion, all wrapped up within a thematic sensibility which reeks of a combination between The Raid 2: Berandal and Warrior, and as amazing as that ultimately sounds, Sauvaire’s debut doesn’t stamp its’ foot on the equal quality of its’ predeceasing familiars and is ultimately a movie saved by his stellar direction of a leading performance which demands to be visualized and lauded.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Adrift

“I Sailed Halfway Around The World To Find You…”

With Icelandic filmmaker, Baltasar Kormákur, having a recent cinematic back catalogue which can arguably be regarded as somewhat patchy, the 2 Guns and Everest director returns this week with Adrift, a romantic survival drama based on the true story of reckless adventurers, Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp, as they venture into the Pacific Ocean in order to sail a luxury sail boat from Tahiti to San Diego and end up coming face to face with a destructive and dangerous hurricane. Based on Tami Oldham’s own memoir “Red Sky in Mourning”, co-written with Susea McGearhart and published in 1998, Kormákur’s latest follows a familiar “lost-at-sea” narrative as it attempts to juggle the central relationship between Oldham and Sharp, played on-screen by Shailene Woodley (Snowden) and Sam Claflin (My Cousin Rachel) respectively, with a hard-edged tale of survival, and whilst the performances of the central duo are pleasantly believable and committed, particularly Woodley who gives her best on-screen performance since Snowden, Adrift is annoyingly a middling, overly mediocre affair which features zero sense of peril and an overriding sense that we have been here many, many times before.

With a time-jumping narrative which continually switches between the past and the present, the historical scenes sees the core relationship between Sharp and Oldham begin to blossom in the most cringey, overly saccharin way possible, with even Oldham’s character in one scene apologising for being too “cheesy”, but even with a screenplay which feels very much the typeface template for approaching on-screen Hollywood depictions of love, it’s to the leading duo’s credit that you still successfully believe in the pair as a genuine couple hunger for exploration and excitement on the rough seas. Cue the scenes of the present and it is here where Adrift ultimately and strangely becomes ever-so cliched, with the movie somewhat sitting between the all-out physicality of All is Lost and the ripe sentimentality of Titanic, but all-the-while feeling incredibly boring and wholly un-engaging even when Woodley gives it her all, peanut butter covered fingers and all. With a concluding twist which not only feels convoluted, cheap and utterly ridiculous, such a black hole of jarring inconsistency raises questions about whether the majority of the film was ultimately needed, but with a resounding sense that both Claflin and Woodley somewhat save the day, Adrift sort of gets past the finish line, albeit struggling and hanging on for dear life.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: Sicario 2: Soldado

“You Wanna See This Thing Through? I’m Gonna Have To Get, Dirty…”

With Denis Villeneuve showing a wider audience what was to come of his expert film-making prowess back in 2015 with Sicario, a expertly crafted, white-knuckle thriller which laid the basis for the similarly masterful Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 in terms of what the French-Canadian could achieve with the right backing, arguably the more impressive element of the feature was Taylor Sheridan, an American most famous at the time for his stint on Sons of Anarchy but whose screenplay for Sicario was both smart and compelling, one swiftly followed by equally impressive screenplays for both Hell or High Water and Wind River, capping off a trio of superbly written movies. each with a dedicated lust for heavy doses of substance and style in equal measure. Returning to writing duties again for the eagerly anticipated Sicario sequel, subtitled Soldado, the absence of Villeneuve means Italian director Stefano Sollima (Suburra) takes charge of a movie which continues the oppressive, ominous tone of the original whilst working through a genuinely thrilling narrative, one which sees the return of Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War) and Benicio del Toro (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Matt Graver and Alejandro Gillick as they attempt to orchestrate a war between the Mexican cartels after they are seen to be aiding agents of ISIS cross the border in order to carry out their destructive message, and whilst Soldado doesn’t entirely hit the heavy heights of its’ near-perfect predecessor come the end credits, Sollima’s movie is still an unnerving, powerful work of war at its’ most darkest and lawless.

Beginning with a catalogue of terrorist related events, including a jaw-dropping and horrific supermarket explosion in which the camera lingers closely from outside through every familiar step of contemporary terror, Soldado quickly re-introduces the reunion of Graver and Gillick as they are handed the freedom to do as they please in order to combat the ever-increasing Mexican cartel presence on the US-border which has now taken extra precedence due their involvement in potential terror activities. With a central narrative which sees the kidnapping of the young, spoiled daughter of a renowned Mexican cartel boss, one which ultimately results in in-house allegiances being put to the test, Sheridan’s screenplay also follows closely the exploits of newcomer Elijah Rodriguez’s Miguel as he crawls up the ranks of the cartel’s people smuggling operation, and whilst the sequel doesn’t entirely hit the brooding, ambiguity which drove through the entirety of its’ predecessor up until the very end, the tight-knit, unbearable tension does manage to completely follow over, rearing its’ head throughout a high proportion of a movie which aside from one sarcastic aside, primarily holds its’ tone as completely and utterly serious. With a Michael Mann-esque, militaristic sensibility which sees countless shots of rampaging army vehicles cruising across the vacant, perilous landscapes of the US/Mexican border, Soldado is wickedly spectacular in its’ approach to action set pieces, with the piercing sound of bullets echoing the overripe mixing of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk merging spectacularly with endless cinematic screenshots of whirring helicopters, over-head drones and enough firepower to start and end a small coup.

With the inclusion of much more lusciously orchestrated action scenes second time around, the question remains whether the overall screenplay deserves such luxuries, and even as an overall body of work Soldado doesn’t piece together as tightly or rigidly as Sicario, with particular crucial plot threads concluding rather suddenly without any real sense of full-blooded purpose, the avenues which Sheridan’s writing takes us undoubtedly suits the bleak mould of the series, particularly in the movies’ penchant for gut-wrenching murder sequences and a concluding near-death experience which undeniably ranks up there with one of the more brutal character arcs in recent history. With Brolin and del Toro on superb, angst-ridden, macho-growling form, with the latter having much more space for a deeper layer of examination this time around as his character’s uncertain, ambiguous nature is slowly scraped at and given light, young Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight) as the similarly tough Isabela Reyes gives an equally impressive performance as the daughter of the cartel boss responsible for the death of Alejandro’s wife and daughter. With a bruising, battling, war torn sensibility which is as tough at times as it is riotously engaging and enjoyable, Soldado is a sequel success story which both pays homage to its’ predecessor with utmost respect whilst developing its’ characters in fascinating ways, and with the possibility of a third film coming to nicely round the series off as a trilogy, one can only query how much further Sheridan can continue his winning scripture streak.

Overall Score: 8/10