Matt GlasbyReviews | 17 September 15
Chilly Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Incendies) may not seem the obvious choice to helm a hot-blooded action thriller. And English rose Emily Blunt couldn’t have been top of anyone’s list to play its ass-kicking all-American heroine. But the ambitiousness of the match fits the ambitiousness of the movie. Even the title (it means “hitman” in Spanish) shows the film-makers are thinking differently. Plus, it sounds really cool.
Blunt plays an officer on Phoenix’s Kidnap Response Team who’s co-opted by Josh Brolin’s government spook to fight the Mexican drugs cartels. It’s unclear how far Brolin’s jurisdiction reaches – or exactly what he and the ever-shady Benicio Del Toro are up to – but mostly the job involves tooled-up, tense-as-hell raids across the border, many of which will be seared into your brain long after the credits roll. Brolin and Del Toro are old hands at this kind of thing, but Blunt’s performance (along with Edge of Tomorrow) constitutes a canny career sidestep, and her interactions with partner Daniel Kaluuya (another Brit abroad) ground the super-charged setpieces.
In a typical bit of Hollywood idiocy, Villeneuve was asked to make Blunt’s character male. But it’s crucial she’s the only woman in the room, constantly fighting to make her voice heard amid the endless macho bullshit, plus it adds another layer to a film with much to say about America’s conduct in the unwinnable “war on drugs”. Stylish, smart and exciting, this is what can happen when artists make entertainment: you get art that entertains.
The film contains something many action films sorely lack: fun.
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There’s plenty to recommend in this increasingly paranoid sci-fi three-hander.