Colombiana (2011) – Revenge served up hot
A lot of times while chatting at the club, my friends and I will engage in the Ye Old Drinking Game of “Who would you switch for?” The implication is that perhaps there might be an actress we’d dump our Kinsey scale of homosexuality, and could see ourselves jumping into the sack with. It’s a lot of fun, completely meaningless, and usually ends with Anderson Cooper style giggle-fits. Well, Zoe Saldana (Avatar) is one of those lovely ladies for me. Though, I completely recognized once watching her film Colombiana, she’s not quite good enough for leading lady status.
A lot of weight is placed on her caramel-toned, often bared shoulders in this movie. Not unlike the completely pale white ones of Saoirse Ronan from Hanna, she’s portraying a beautiful but deadly assassin. But whereas Hanna was directed as a pseudo-Euro art piece, Colombiana decides it would rather go in your face with its down and dirty action style. This is most evident right from the start, as director Oliver Megaton (Transporter 3) provides a jarring intercut between stock footage of gang activities with aerial shots of the a jam packed city in Colombia. Requiring a justifiable reason to make Zoe Saldana’s character into a lethal killer, it is this entire first act that nearly swamps the movie from the start. Little girl version of Cataleya is poorly acted and feels hardly real as she’s already an expert in eluding hooligans who murder her parents in front of her. (As described in the trailer, so not a spoiler.) Once in the US, she’s connected with other family members and is already intensely determined about her future goal to get revenge. But not only is there no real emotion given us here, the whole section drags on.
Finally, we get to see our lone star heroine as she rams her car into a parked police cruiser ensuring she’ll be right where she needs to be to kill her nearly two dozenth target. From there the movie starts to expand a little into a rather clever bit of cat and mouse as Cataleya continues to pick off people while being sought out by an FBI agent played strongly by Lennie James (mostly TV roles). There is a romance as well, just so you can be assured to see the sexier side of Zoe, and interestingly enough its during these exchanges she finally shows some dimension to her character.
See, the problem with this film is that its comprised mostly of how withdrawn Cataleya has become, layered with the ‘will she or won’t she’ get caught while engaging in her conquest for vengeance. So because of that, we’re not as engaged as I’d like to have been with the movie. Merely spectating as she stealthily slinks around in skin-tight outfits in between far too rare occasions where her character finally really interacts with others on screen.
To be fair, it gets better as it goes along. It’s as if the script starts to become more comfortable about itself. The uneven drama and action eventually gains humor and better action as we move toward the ending. Though even when things do start really moving, and you’re starting to lean forward in your seat with eager anticipation, you have to start to realize Colombiana has given you the slow-burn without any real substantive meat behind the promise it had made. It turns out just to be a rather hallow revenge flick that’s marginally better than mediocre, if only because it stars that one hot girl you playfully suggested you’d switch for.
Maybe I should only stick to her as a Na’vi.
Oh lordy, this movie has got all the elements I love: Luc Besson co-writing (Fifth Element, Transporter, Leon), Zoe Saldana in skin-tight outfights, tons of action (see: Luc Besson), and – no joke – the movie is directed by Olivier MEGATON. Okay, so that’s his entertainer name, but still, with a name like Megaton his movies had better be action packed.
We definitely got action. Unexpectedly, the cute, shy Amandla Stenberg – playing young Cataleya – showed off some nice action moves. A parkour chase ensues in the chaotic ghettos of the Colombian city, ending up with young Cataleya winning access to the US. Years later, she has become a smart, sexy, and extremely dangerous killer. Although there are some little plot twists and character growth in the film (discussed next), go for the action. It’s got a nice mix of tricky Mission Impossible missions mixed with fancy gun play and a nice hand-to-hand combat scene. Throughout all of this, viewers are treated to a fascinating PG-13 ballet danced by the camera to show every inch of Saldana’s body while avoiding the naughty R-rated bits.
Action movies with plot? Never! Colombiana takes a few stabs at building complexity in to Cataleya’s motives and actions without a lot of success. She has the strained boss/uncle relationship, a massive grudge against the man who killed her father, and an awkwardly wedged-in sex-only relationship with a hack artist. None of these, especially the artist relationship, do much more than try to cram little bits of sympathy into an otherwise cold character. ”What do you feel?” ”Sometimes I get lonely.” I see what you did there – I feel lonely sometimes too! It’s an action movie. Her parents were murdered – what more do we need to know? At the end of the film, Cataleya’s no different, no better than she was before – she’s just left a wake of destruction and misery in her path.
Am I being over analytical by picking apart the main character? Probably, but why try to craft a character with any depth if you’re going to have her return to the shallow end of the pool when it’s convenient to pick the action back up? Transporter 1 through 3 were completely devoid of any attempts at meaningful story, but who cares! They’re crazy-fun action movies. Cataleya also has the Captain America problem of being a little too perfect. It’s just hard to build tension when your hero cannot fail.
The verdict: fun action movie with distracting blah blah blah. Also, no nipples.
The Fat Man gives this movie: