Directed by Olivier Megaton
Produced by Luc Besson
Screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
It occurred to me about forty-five minutes into COLOMBIANA that when it came to casting, Luc Besson might conceivably have said to the casting director; “just find me the skinniest actress you can, doesn’t matter who she is as long as she’s thin as a broom handle.” Which I don’t mean to disparage Zoë Saldana in any way whatsoever because I like her a lot. I’ve seen her in “Drumline” “Pirates of The Caribbean: Curse of The Black Pearl” ”Star Trek” “Star Trek Into Darkness” ”The Losers” and “Death at a Funeral” and enjoyed her in all of them. And I enjoyed her performance in COLOMBIANA. It’s just that considering that most of her screen time is spent crawling through tight places like air ducts, access tunnels and ventilation systems, if Luc Besson had found an actress a size smaller than her, it’s possible that Zoë Saldana would have been out.
The movie opens in 1992 where a young girl named Cataleya Restrepo (Amandla Stenberg) is witness to the murder of her parents by Marco (Jordi Molla) the right hand man of drug warlord Don Luis (Beto Benites) After a dazzlingly daring escape from the clutches of Marco and his hired guns, the girl makes her way to Chicago and the home of her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis). He assures her that he’ll take care of her as if she were his own daughter. She informs him that the only thing she wants is for her uncle to teach her how to be a killer.
Cut to fifteen years later. Cataleya (Zoë Saldana) is now a hitwoman working for her uncle. But unknown to him, she’s been working her own hits on the side, taking out members of Don Luis’ cartel, hoping to draw him out as he’s deep in hiding and that’s the only way she can hope to get to him. Cataleya’s starting to make mistakes and leave trails behind her. One of those trails is picked up by FBI Special Agent Ross (Lennie James) who thinks he’s finally found the assassin responsible for twenty-two mysterious killings in which all the victims had a flower drawn on their chests, the Cataleya, which only grows in a certain region of Colombia. Only thing now is getting his hands on her. And Cataleya doesn’t intend to get caught until she’s finally had her revenge.
Usually revenge as a motive in a movie bores me a lot of the time because I think that in the past 10, 15 years it’s a lazy way for screenplay writers to get the story going. You need a reason for your protagonist to go around slaughtering everybody in sight? Kill their loved ones and we’re off to the races. Kill their loved ones in the first ten minutes of the movie and you’ve got eighty more minutes to wallow in the bloody carnage.
To give COLOMBIANA credit it does go a little more into the psychological damage revenge does when someone sacrifices their life to that pursuit. There isn’t much to the character of Cataleya but that’s because she doesn’t have a character. Her every waking moment has been dedicated to the pursuit of revenge and nothing else. She satisfies her basic needs such as eating, sleeping and sex with her artist boyfriend Danny (Michael Vartan) who has no idea of what or who she actually is and that’s it.
I got a good laugh out of watching Zoë Saldana toting around machine guns and rocket launchers three times her size and weight as she’s so skinny and tiny. But she does it with total seriousness, I give her credit for that. More interesting is her methods of sneaking in and out of buildings in Old School Ninja style: she uses no kind of hi-tech at all, just her own strength, speed and skill and whatever she can smuggle into her hair.
So should you see COLOMBIANA? It’s an okay time-waster on a Friday or Saturday night if there’s nothing else available on Netflix that turns your crank. It’s professionally done and done quite well, in fact. The acting is professional, the pacing moves along professionally, the production values are professional…see where I’m going with this? COLOMBIANA is a professionally made thriller but that’s all it is. It’s not quirky enough, or violent enough, or crazy/wild enough or bizarre enough to elevate it any higher than the level of a professional, competent product.