American Sicario tests the limits of family and loyalty in this cycle-defined story of Erik Vasquez (Philippe A Haddad), an American-born drug lord making waves in Mexico, from his rise to the top to his rapid fall from grace. War, violence, treachery and unnecessary deaths are the defining characteristics – which is just as well because there isn’t always a reason for why things happen the way that they do.
High-contrast lighting, dimmed filters and plenty of shadows set the gruelling tone, with neon lights used alongside simple yet effective editing techniques, such as crossfades, excessive slow-motion and plenty of overlays, to really sell the hysteria and psychedelic experience of drugs. While there may be a few glitches here and there, the production in general is the backbone of the American Sicario; it’s what makes the script and everything else work.
For example, the symbolism surrounding weaponry could not have made as much impact without being set up by the cinematography and editing (the angle of the guns being shot, the background blurs, the composition of parallel scenes). One of the best sequences of the film is the attack on Vasquez’s mansion, with the crosscuts in the covert entry and Erik arguing loudly with Pedro (Danny Trejo).
Speaking of whom, Trejo’s involvement in the project is not wasted. The parallels and contrasts between Erik and Pedro – their upbringing, the gap in their generations – are important elements that are well portrayed. Erik finds answers in Pedro, who reflects heavily on his time dealing drugs and working with cartels himself, which is why their falling out is so impactful.
Essentially, Pedro’s line, “Nothing more important than family, they will always give you their loyalty… in the business we’re in, loyalty goes a long way”, makes the film overall. There’s a lot of play on the concept of family itself – as blood relations, friendships, mutual connection through romance – which in turn delves deeper into the question of loyalty, and whether or not blood is thicker than water.
American Sicario is released nationwide on 10th December 2021.
Watch the trailer for American Sicario here: