Cinema Review: Colombiana

Leon Nicholson reviews Colombiana starring Zoë Saldana.

On General Release at UK Cinemas from Friday September 9 , 2011.

Luc Besson loves to write about tough, non-compromising yet vulnerable women in his films. La Femme Nikita, Leon and The Fifth Element all boast examples of female characters that possess these traits, as well as demonstrating the quality that Besson is capable of producing. Even though he now spends less time behind the camera and more time writing screenplays and producing movies, he is clearly the driving force behind Colombiana, directed by Olivier Megaton.

Colombiana opens in Bogata, 1992, where as a young girl, Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg) witnesses the execution of her parents by Marco (Jordi Mollà), the number one henchman and trusted friend of crime boss and drug baron Don Luis (Beto Benites). Fast forward fifteen years and Cataleya, (now played by Zoë Saldana) having escaped the clutches of Marco, is all grown up, living in Chicago and working for her Uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis) as an assassin. Cat however, is involved in extra curricular activities, as she carries out some ‘cleaning’ of her own as she looks to avenge the death of her parents.

Cue Special Agent Ross (Lennie James); the typically determined F.B.I. agent trailing Cat, as well an arrogant C.I.A operative with his own agenda and of course, the final showdown as she comes face to face with her nemesis.

Colombiana promises the world – it’s written by Luc Besson, from the producers of Taken and with the gorgeous Zoë Saldana as the lead. Sounds great, in fact it sounds awesome. Unfortunately, promising the world and delivering it are two completely different propositions.

Firstly, the direction from Olivier Megaton, who helmed the not-so-great film The Red Siren and was also involved as Second Unit Director in the dreadful Hitman, (whereas Transporter 3 is a matter of personal taste) is distinctly average. The problems however, lie deeper than this.

It would be totally unjustifiable and a blatant cop-out for Megaton to shoulder all the blame because surprisingly, the script from Besson and collaborator Robert Mark Kamen is, by their high standards, poor. Combined with Megaton’s erratic direction, Colombiana comes across as extremely disjointed due to the so-called plot staggering along from one set-piece to the next.

Secondly, almost everything about Colombiana is utterly ridiculous… considering it’s set out to be a fully fledged, meaningful action movie. It would be a lot easier to forgive this film if it was slightly tongue-in-cheek but alas, it tries to come across as a hard-hitting action flick taking itself far too seriously.

Watching movies such as this does require the viewer to ‘suspend belief’ which is sometimes the only way to watch a film, but Colombiana takes the proverbial biscuit. So much, in fact, that it actually ends up being unintentionally funny and would give movies such as Dodgeball or Meet the Parents a run for their money.

This is epitomised by the opening scenes where a young Cat, who is being pursued by Marco and his men, manages to escape with the skills she obviously developed from watching District 13 and Casino Royale.

Ludicrous, preposterous, absurd… the list goes on.

Zoë Saldana (Avatar) is the saving grace for this movie and without her strong performance (under the circumstances of the above reasons) Colombiana would make for very difficult viewing.

Saldana plays sexy very, very well (mainly because she is) but her portrayal of a wronged woman looking for revenge suffers due to weak character development.

This leads to the third of many problems encountered in this film which is the lack of connection, empathy and sympathy the viewer feels for Cataleya.

There will not be many viewers who would feel they could connect to Cat’s character. There are very few who could empathise with someone whose parents have been brutally murdered by a drug baron but the main setback is that the viewer will leave feeling that they should have sympathised with Cataleya’s cause a hell of a lot more. Why is this? Well, the non-existent growth in Cat’s character leaves the viewer no possibility to relate, nor feel sorry for an unsympathetic, cold–blooded killer!

Apart from the impressive Bourne-esque fight scene that appears towards the back end of the movie and solid support from Cliff Curtis (Sunshine, Die Hard 4.0), Colombiana is a damp squib of a film that mirrors the trashy stupidity of The Transporter franchise minus the fun. It clearly lacks the class usually associated with Besson and begs the question – would this have been better if he was behind the camera?

Vengeance is beautiful, so is Saldana – it’s just a shame about the movie.

FMV Rating **

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