'Sicario' Takes On A Scary Subject

In the new film Sicario, Emily Blunt pads her budding action star resumé as Kate Mercer, an FBI agent who is assigned to a new detail along the dangerous U.S.-Mexico border. While there, she has to battle deadly drug cartels within Mexico's own borders alongside Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, as they attempt to track down the drug lord responsible for a massacre on U.S. soil that Mercer uncovered during her previous assignment with a kidnap-response squad. It's clear that the movie is super intense and scary, but the film's title doesn't really give an impression of what it's actually about to the non-Spanish speaker. So, what does Sicario mean?

The most direct translation from Spanish to English for sicario is "hitman." The word is most often used to describe the hitmen associated with the Mexican drug cartels, and they don't have the friendliest reputation. The trailer for Sicario gives the definition of sicario as "hitman in Mexico," leaving no doubt to the dangers Mercer and her team face on the other side of the border. But this is hardly the first time audiences have seen Mexican hitmen in a movie before. There have been a bunch of films depicting the violence of drug cartels over the years; here are the best of them.


Traffic tells several simultaneous storylines from various points of view, all dealing with the Mexican drug cartels. The film won four Academy Awards in 2001, including one for Best Supporting Actor for del Toro, who appears in the film as a cop who is assigned to track down a sicario to help bring down a cartel. Sounds like he's got that type of role down.


Guess who shows up in this movie? Del Toro finds himself on the dark side of the law here, playing a vicious Mexican cartel member who is looking to get a cut of some successful Orange County pot dealers' business by kidnapping their girlfriend. Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play the pot dealers, Blake Lively is the girlfriend, Salma Hayek plays the leader of the cartel, and John Travolta appears as a crooked DEA agent in this star-studded affair from director Oliver Stone.


One of two recent Arnold Schwarzenegger films dealing with Mexican drug cartels, the other being the less-serious The Last Stand, Sabotage features Schwarzenegger as the leader of a DEA unit whose family was grotesquely murdered and dismembered by a cartel. What drives the film, though, is what happens when Schwarzenegger's team steals $10 million of cartel money in a bust: somebody starts killing them off one by one. Is it the cartels out for revenge, or is it one of their own? I'll never tell!

End Of Watch

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña portray Los Angeles cops working the beat in gang-ridden South Central L.A. in this film that utilizes the common horror movie tactic of found footage for a realistic feel. In the film, the two cops raid a house and find a number of human trafficking victims inside. The house turns out to have been a base of operations for the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel, who then target the cops for assassination in retaliation for shutting the house down.

Mexico Trilogy

Delving more into fantasy than the other films in this list, Robert Rodriguez's three films: El Mariachi, Desperado, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, tell the story of a mariachi singer who carries weapons in his guitar case, which he then uses to fight drug cartels. Although the films aren't very realistic in their depictions of the actual horrors the drug cartels are responsible for, they sure are fun.

So far, Sicario is getting solid reviews, but it remains to be seen how it will ultimately compare to the other films in the genre. Will it get some Oscar love like Traffic? Will it spawn a trilogy like El Mariachi? Will it inspire Blunt to take on yet another kickass role? Fans will just have to wait and see.

Images: Lionsgate Films