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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

why does the Sicario Region 1 DVD cover art make it look like Benicio Del Toro is the star of the film?

Here we go again.

Here’s the Region 1 DVD of Sicario:


If you knew nothing at all about the film and were to guess solely by this art, whom would you presume is the star of the film? Benicio Del Toro, no? He is fantastic in this movie, but he is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the protagonist of this film. Nor is he the character with the most screen time or the one with the most significant arc.

The protagonist is Emily Blunt’s character. There is no question about this. The Region 2 DVD cover art is more honest about this:


This could be even better, but at least she is in the foreground and her image is larger than those of her male costars. Her supporting characters.

This isn’t quite as bad as the dick-washing that female-led The Sapphires was subjected to a couple of years ago. But it’s still infuriating as hell. It’s an especial slap in the face to the filmmakers (including Blunt), who fought specifically for a female lead — the studio wanted a man. It’s also a slap in the face to the little bit of gains women have made onscreen this year.

So why did this art happen? The first person who says, “But Benicio Del Toro is just better known than Emily Blunt” will get slapped with not only with a pile of Ms magazines but also with a pile of Varietys. Blunt’s box office is generally much better than Del Toro’s: You’d have to go back to 2000’s Traffic to find a film in which Del Toro figures even moderately prominently that has done better at the box office than Blunt’s Edge of Tomorrow, from last year. (And that’s not counting Into the Woods, in which Blunt’s character, as part of an ensemble, is probably about as prominent as Del Toro’s role in the ensemble of Traffic.) Over the past decade, Blunt has been significantly more present in mainstream films that have done well at the box office than Del Toro has… and you cannot even argue that they were all rom-coms or “women’s films” and that she’s unknown to all the presumably manly men who are the supposed target audience of a film such as Sicario, because: Edge of Tomorrow. I am certainly not suggesting that box office is any sort of measure of quality work or of talent — though both Blunt and Del Toro are very talented and have lots of onscreen charisma, and I love them both. I mention all this merely to deflect the inevitable “argument” that this design choice was all about “business.” Such an argument would clearly be bullshit.

In a year when badass women are obviously doing very well for Hollywood’s business, this is no explanation for this beyond unthinking, reflexive sexism. There simply isn’t.

So tired of this crap.

  • LaSargenta

    Oh that’s ridiculous! It was her story!! (And this is coming from someone who would love to get an opportunity to put my hands on Benicio and who enjoys his acting on screen, even when he is being repulsive.)

  • RogerBW

    One thought: they decided that much of the audience for an action film is the sort of sexist who would be put off by a prominent woman on the cover? (They were probably talked down from one of those Frazetta Conan covers where the chick is half-naked and draped round the leg of the dude.)

  • Danielm80

    This doesn’t even make sense according to the usual haphazard logic of bigotry. There’s no reason Benicio Del Toro (Puerto Rican and male) should be more prominent than Josh Brolin (white and male) or Emily Blunt (white and female). Apparently the target audience is male chauvinists with a thing for Latin men.

  • Bluejay

    It also doesn’t make sense to pander to male chauvinists with the DVD cover, considering that they’d still be pissed that the actual movie itself is about Blunt.

    Unthinking, reflexive sexism” is exactly the right description.

  • Danielm80

    None of it makes sense. I’m just wondering why they picked Del Toro over Brolin, whose average gross is slightly higher than that of either of the other actors.


  • Jenny

    because in the end it’s really Alejandro’s story? Everything’s happening in the movie is because of him.

  • Danielm80

    No. Just no.

    We discussed that idea a while back on this thread:


  • Carolyn Pappas

    I agree with you Jenny. This is ultimately Alejandro’s story, after all the title of the film is called Sicario, meaning ‘hitman’. He is the Hitman. His presence/job in the film is/was largely, to do the job as the Sicario, to take down the cartel boss and he’ll do anything to get to the top. It’s got nothing to do with chauvinists. I think it’s clever writing by Taylor Sheridan, clever directing to swap from Emily’s character and turn the focus from her to the Hitman’s, if the focus was solely on Emily’s character Taylor would have called the screenplay something relating to Emily’s character and the inner demons she was up against.


  • Danielm80

    Star Wars: A New Hope was a story about Darth Vader’s attempt to take over the galaxy using the Death Star he’d built. If he hadn’t tried to do that, Luke could have stayed home on Tatooine, because there would have been no wars to fight.

    But the movie isn’t about Darth Vader. It’s about the way Luke responds to Darth Vader, and the impact it has on the rest of his life.

    The sicario in this movie sets the plot in motion, and a few scenes even center around him, but it’s not his story. It’s a story about a federal agent who learns some unpleasant truths about the drug war, and the moral decisions she has to make afterward. If she weren’t the main character, Sicario would just be a story about cold-blooded revenge, which would be a completely different movie.

  • Bluejay

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but all of the marketing I’ve seen while the movie was in theaters had Emily Blunt as the focus. The press treated Blunt as the one on center stage, in “one of the very few action films to star a female actress as the lead.” If the movie DOES swap the focus from Blunt’s character to del Toro’s character, maybe the DVD cover shouldn’t give away that twist. That would be like [SPOILER] the DVD cover for The Usual Suspects giving away who Kaiser Soze was by focusing on Kevin Spacey’s face. (And even there you can’t really call it “Spacey’s movie,” because it’s all about how the other characters react to his plans.)

  • Danielm80

    If the movie DOES swap the focus from Blunt’s character to del Toro’s character, maybe the DVD cover shouldn’t give away that twist.

    There’s no twist. He’s not the main character. He gets one big scene. And even that scene is jarring (and, arguably, a tonal mistake), because it takes focus away from the actual main character.

    Jenny and Carolyn’s argument makes no sense at all.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Actually, it would be more logical to assume that the change was made in order to pander to a Latino audience. Not the most politically correct of moves for sure but then we’re talking about an American movie with a Spanish title set in a Latin American country. To pretend that there aren’t ad men who are likely to direct such a movie toward a Latin audience — no matter how illogical that move might seem in light of the movie’s actual storyline — is to have a lot higher opinion of the American advertising industry than I have at the moment.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I suspect the word “ethnocentric” would fit in just fine somewhere in there. ;-)

  • Carolyn Pappas

    Having just watched a 23.44 min interview with Denis, Benicio del Toro, Blunt and Brolin, he, the Director himself said del Toro’s character is the soul of the film. It really comes down to personal opinion.

  • Danielm80

    Dr. Watson could be described as “the soul” of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but he’s still not the main character.

  • David Webb

    I think someone just might have figured it out!

  • David Webb

    The logic of bigotry? Male chauvinists with a thing for Latin men? Sounds like the crap peddled by cry-bullies!

    Maybe one of the primary reasons Liongate produced this film was to have something to market to the now dominant Hispanic population in the U.S.?

    Wait, that was confirmed! Hispanics spend more at the cinemas than any other ethnicity, according to Nielson.

    Maybe, regardless of who you think the driving character of the film is (hint: it isn’t Blunt!), women didn’t care for the subject matter of the film and rated it rather low in test screenings.

    Wait, that was also confirmed! So, why bother making a cover that gives more prominence to someone who isn’t the driving character and doesn’t appeal to the target audience?

    That’s part of the twist of this film — it isn’t Blunts story, it’s de Toro’s. We follow Blunt into this world or terror thinking she tough enough, but she soon finds herself “a lamb in a valley of wolves.” It’s his world, and she’s just along for the most reluctant drive of her life!

    “Nothing will make sense to your American ears.”

  • David Webb

    Watch the featurette that interviews the writer of the film and you’ll learn, definitively, that it is NOT her story! You obviously haven’t realized that we were all brilliantly set-up by the filmmakers…

    *** SPOILERS***

    That’s the twist of this film — it isn’t Blunts story, it’s del Toro’s! We follow Blunt into this world of terror thinking she’s tough enough, but she soon finds herself “a lamb in a valley of wolves.” It’s really his world, and she’s just along for the most reluctant drive of her life!

    What did you think that ending was about? Blunt was left a sobbing, crying little girl who, given the opportunity, couldn’t bring herself to shoot del Toro. She couldn’t even get herself out of the car during the shoot-out at the boarder!

    Our focus, as the audience, begins by following Blunt. However, we quickly shift our focus to del Toro as she loses control, makes mistakes, and her weakness brings her close to death on more than one occasion.

    We finally abandon her when del Toro shoots her in the tunnels — THAT’S when it’s clear about who’s in charge, about who really dominates this world. Even Brolin’s character admits that he share’s no power with del Toro!

    “Nothing will make sense to your American ears.”

  • David Webb

    “Nothing will make sense to your American ears.”

  • David Webb

    Yes. Just yes!

    That’s the twist of this brilliant film. Blunt finds herself “a lamb in a valley of wolves.” It’s a brilliant set-up by the filmmakers, really.

    The audience follows Blunt into the story and soon “adopts” her as the protagonist. However, the truth begins to reveal itself when she loses control, makes mistakes, and her weakness brings her close to death on more than one occasion.

    We finally abandon her when del Toro shoots her in the tunnels — THAT’S when it’s clear about who’s in charge, about who really dominates this world. Even Brolin’s character and her superiors at the FBI admit that they share’s no power with del Toro!

    “You are not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves now.”

  • David Webb

    You got it! It’s, indeed, a very clever swap by Sheridan.

  • David Webb

    No, don’t do that Carolyn! Don’t walk away from the truth and say that it just “comes down to my own personal take on the film and my own opinion.”

    We saw the same film, we saw the same interviews, and we know who’s the “soul” of “Sicario.”

    No need to shy away from the truth because the children in the room stomp their feet and cross their arms. They can savor the truth when it’s served at the table or they can eat their sour grapes alone in their room, but don’t ever shy from the truth yourself!

  • David Webb

    If the story was one where Sherlock Holmes reacts to events set in motion by Dr. Watson, if Sherlock Holmes later realizes that he’s just a pawn in Dr. Watson’s larger scheme, if Sherlock Holmes later realizes he’s not strong enough to live in Dr. Watson’s world and, further, the final scene of that story shows Dr. Watson as the “last man standing” then, yeah…

    That would be Dr. Watson’s story!

  • Blunt was left a sobbing, crying little girl

    Wow. No.

  • You can stop repeating this line of dialogue from the film now.

  • Don’t walk away from the truth

    You can stop this now. You do not have an exclusive grasp on “the truth.”

  • No, it wouldn’t. Unless it was told as Watson’s story.

  • Danielm80

    But…but…this is a movie about military men with guns, so the main character has to be the toughest guy on the screen. You’d think John Wayne is dead.

  • David Webb

    That’s what ever loser says when they’re smacked with the truth. If you could prove otherwise you would have, instead of making an excuse that boils down to “whatever, it’s all subjective anyway.”

    When the filmmaker says on record “this is the character without which this story would not have occurred and could not have been told,” then yeah, that’s the character who “owns” the story.

    We follow Kate, but it’s a decision made to keep the audience as “outsiders” looking into the world of this story, keeping del Toro’s character — the titular character, mind you — all the more mysterious until the very end, when the audience is allowed to follow him and realize it’s really his world.

    It’s alright. I get that you’ve written a mountain to “prove” your point, that you’ve painted yourself into a corner and now you feel compelled to “save face” … even though the filmmakers have totally blown you out of the water!

  • David Webb

    No? Kate wasn’t left at her apartment sobbing, crying after having a gun to her head? Are you sure we’re talking about the same film?

    You remember how del Toro was constantly comparing Kate to his own daughter throughout the whole film, right?

    Wait, have you even *seen* “Sicario”, or has all this just been a manufactured “soap box” for you to pontificate your misandric musings?


  • That’s what ever loser says when they’re smacked with the truth.

    You’re getting very close to the point where you’ve gotten so obnoxious that I ask you to leave.

  • So, a sexist jerk compares a grown woman to his daughter, and this somehow actually makes her a little girl?

    Hint: No, it does not. Nor do complicated emotional reactions to stressful situations.

  • Danielm80

    You’re turning into Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother:

    Marshall Eriksen: You’re telling me that when you watch The Karate Kid, you don’t root for Daniel-san?

    Ted Mosby: Who do you root for in Die Hard?

    Barney Stinson: Hans Gruber. Charming international bandit. In the end, he dies hard. He’s the title character.

    Lily Aldrin: What about The Breakfast Club?

    Barney Stinson: The teacher running detention. He’s the only guy in the whole movie wearing a suit.

    Robin Scherbatsky: I’ve got one. The Terminator.

    Barney Stinson: What’s the name of the movie, Robin? Who among us did not shed a tear when his little red eye went out in the end, and he didn’t get to kill all those people?

    [Breaks down]

    Barney Stinson: I’m sorry. I just get so emotional.

    Ted Mosby: I am never watching a movie with you again.

    Barney Stinson: They didn’t even try to help him!

  • LaSargenta

    I have twice seen grown men sobbing later as the adrenaline dump hits after being on the receiving end of some serious violence. These were guys who defended themselves well and I doubt you in particular would say they were little boys.

    Instead, I suspect you have never been in such a situation and really have no fucking clue how people react after events like these.

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