Last week I saw Denis Villeneuve‘s Sicario at the CAA screening room in Century City. It played a whole lot better than it did in Cannes, entirely due to the CAA facility’s perfectly tuned sound and the fact that it’s not overly bassy and echo-y, as is the case in the Grand Lumiere. I understood each and every line, and the difference was significant. I now regard this drug-war flick as an above-average mood piece about the near-futility of going by the book in fighting (i.e., trying to contain) the Mexican drug lords. I still have a problem with Emily Blunt‘s DEA agent, who is forever behind the eight-ball — struggling to understand the nature of the game, doing something stupid (i.e., picking up a Latin-looking guy at a honky tonk) or saying something tedious. But I no longer have Sicario on my black list.

From my 5.19.15 Cannes review: “Sicario is basically about heavily militarized, inter-agency U.S. forces hunting down and shooting it out with the Mexican drug-cartel bad guys, and also flying here and there in a private jet and driving around in a parade of big black SUVs. It’s a strong welcome-to-hell piece, I’ll give it that, but Sicario doesn’t come close to the multi-layered, piled-on impact of Steven Soderbergh‘s Traffic, which dealt with more or less the same realm.

“The tale, such as it is, is told from the perspective of Emily Blunt‘s FBI field agent, who of course is stunned and devastated by the unrelenting carnage blah blah. One of her battle-hardened colleagues, a senior veteran with a semi-casual ‘whatever works, bring it on’ attitude, is played by the ever-reliable Josh Brolin. My favorite character by far was Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro, a shadowy Mexican operative with burning eyes and his own kind of existential attitude about law and revenge. Blunt’s partner is played by Daniel Kaluuya, and I’m telling you here and now and forever I didn’t understand a single phrase from this guy.

“Even with the aural handicap I knew for certain that a lot of what was happening on-screen — the super-grisly violence, the despairing godforsaken atmosphere — wasn’t that interesting or logical even, and that Villeneuve seemed more interested in nightmare vibes than compelling specifics.

Original Grand Lumiere sound beef: I complained about this last year and I’m complaining again — the sound in the Grand Theatre Lumiere is too bassy and echo-y, and so I struggled to hear the dialogue during this morning’s screening of Denis Villeneuve‘s Sicario (Lionsgate, 9.18). I managed to pick up a stray word or phrase here and there, and when all else failed I relied on nouns and verbs contained in the French subtitles. Listen and read and combine, listen and read and combine…keep trying. The only way I understood complete sentences was from reading the English subtitles when Benicio del Toro spoke Spanish.”