Today, Heroine Movies takes a detour into mainstream territory with a review of Colombiana starring the beautiful Zoe Saldana as a stone-cold assassin on a bloodthirsty quest for revenge. I can’t say that I enjoyed the movie, but I can say that it gave me a massive headache.
[This review contains spoilers.] Colombiana begins by introducing us to a nice family of three—a young girl named Cataleya (who will grow up to be Zoe Saldana) and her parents, who happen to have connections to a Colombian crime syndicate. We don’t learn the details of this father/mob relationship, but we quite easily infer that this is a bad thing that will result in a lot of gunfire and death. As soon as we’ve met Cataleya, her father’s former boss arrives with a group of gun-wielding thugs who storm into the house and brutally murder her family. Contrary to what you might have seen in the trailers (“My parents were killed… in fffffront of me!”), the family is killed off-screen. Watching the movie, I’m not even sure how Cataleya is aware that her parents are dead, which would be the ostensible motivation for every single thing she does and says in the movie, but I guess that’s no big deal.
After a totally absurd chase sequence—which involves a nine-year-old girl using her innate parkour skills to evade a small army of ruthless, gun-toting mobsters—Cataleya arrives in Chicago, where she is taken in by her sympathetic uncle… who happens to be an extremely well-trained assassin willing to teach Cataleya the ways of the killer. We fast-forward to 15 years later, when Cataleya is now played by the truly lovely Zoe Saldana. We’re introduced to the mature Cataleya in a very long and somewhat complex sequence in which she sneaks around a jail and attempts to assassinate a fellow prisoner. This was a pretty well-constructed sequence and is the highlight of the movie, in my opinion. (Which is another way of saying, “It’s all downhill from here.”)
Soon, we learn that Cataleya is on a mission to get revenge against those who killed her family in fffffront of her. So the entire movie is essentially just a by-the-numbers revenge thriller with several converging plot-lines involving: Cataleya’s quest, the FBI’s search for her, the CIA’s cover-up of the entire affair, and a couple of minor subplots thrown in for good measure (Cataleya’s love life, Cataleya’s uncle becoming disillusioned with her career choice, a lot of people saying “Cataleya!” over and over again…)
Things plod along predictably, and the movie never, ever gives the audience anything that hasn’t been preordained by genre conventions. There really isn’t a single surprise anywhere in Colombiana, which makes for a pretty forgettable movie-going experience. If the movie were an elegantly crafted piece of fluffy pop entertainment, it might warrant a recommendation on that basis, but unfortunately, it utilizes the trendy, ultra-modern action-movie stylistic flourishes (a style film scholar David Bordwell might call “intensified continuity”), which makes it basically impossible to tell what the hell is going on during the film’s numerous action sequences. As opposed to a more classical visual style (like that of Die Hard, Raiders of the Lost Ark, etc.) where a viewer can easily keep track of where the characters are in relation to each other and how one event causes another event, and so forth, Colombiana uses raid-fire cutting, extreme close-ups, shaky-cam techniques, and other hallmarks of modern action cinema to make it really difficult to tell what’s happening. I found it all pretty frustrating. (I could be alone here, but this style of filmmaking really tends to annoy me.)
On the plus side, the movie does provide the opportunity to gaze at the perfection of Zoe Saldana for about two hours. It’s a shame her character has the personality of a sleep-deprived sociopath. In the rare instances in which she’s allowed to convey emotions like “joy” or “curiosity” or even “a momentary break from constant misery,” she comes across as such a charming actress that I wish the writers had created a more complex and interesting character instead of just another ice-cold, emotionless female assassin. Nevertheless, she does wear a variety of hot assassin outfits for the viewers’ enjoyment and even dances around sexily in one scene which exists only to show us Zoe Saldana dancing around sexily.
So, I cannot recommend Colombiana, unfortunately, because it’s a forgettable action thriller with a boring main character who happens to be played by an insanely beautiful lead actress. And it employs the headache-inducing style of the modern action film, which doesn’t do anything for me other than give me feelings of nausea and epilepsy. Also, there are several ludicrous plot developments that depend entirely on extremely unlikely coincidences. (If you see the movie, think about how the FBI learns of her whereabouts… if even one of these preposterous events had not taken place—purely by chance in every case—they never would have located her.)
The movie is competently made, as you might expect from a film produced by
Jerry Bruckheimer Luc Besson and directed by Tony Scott – Michael Bay – Olivier Megaton. But it’s not a remarkable movie in any way, and I recommend avoiding it and staying home—perhaps curling up by the fireplace with a copy of NGC’s Training Room 17 or Rye’s The Black Phoenix or Giga’s Invincible Goddess Beauty.