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August 27, 2011
Review - " Columbiana "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Starring: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Mollà, Jordi Mollà, Michael Vartan,
Cliff Curtis, Amandla Stenberg

The revenge thriller Colombiana, directed by Olivier Megaton,
stars Zoe Saldana as a woman who, after witnessing her
parents’ murder at the hands of ruthless narco-thugs, grows up
to become a professional assassin. The film, which was written
by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, could very well serve
as a companion piece, or perhaps quasi-sequel, to Besson’s
1994 classic The Professional. Whereas in that film, Natalie
Portman’s orphaned Mathilda is rebuked when she expresses
her desire to become a “cleaner,” Saldana’s character,
Cataleya, sees her trained-assassin dreams lovingly nurtured
by her uncle, Emilio (Cliff Curtis), a low-level crime boss in
Chicago. Positive mentorship is so important.

She shows early promise. A first-act sequence, in which
Colombiana’s tone is cast, sees young Cataleya (Amandla
Stenberg) approached by the gunmen who’ve just finished
executing her mother and father. Traumatized but composed,
she listens patiently as the oily lead goon, played by Jordi
Molla, presses for information he knows she’s hiding. Just as
the girl seems poised to comply, she pulls out a giant knife, pins
the man’s hand to the table, swears revenge, and leaps out the
nearest window. Her latent Bourne powers suddenly and
inexplicably activated, she leads her pursuers on a sprawling
footchase through the streets of Bogota, leaping from buildings,
sliding beneath barriers, showing flashes of parkour, before finally escaping to the sewers. The sequence is a microcosm for
the film as a whole: slathered with action, thin on plot, utterly implausible.

Indeed, Colombiana might be easily dismissed as another derivative and forgettable action film if it weren’t for the agile and
focused Saldana, grimly determined to wrest every ounce of character possible from the film’s perilously thin material. When
we first meet her as the adult Cataleya, she is already an accomplished assassin, with dozens of kills under her belt. In
between jobs, she keeps a booty-call (Michael Vartan) on standby to fulfill her intimacy needs. He yearns for a deeper
connection, but she’s stubbornly closed-off, only occasionally betraying glimpses of the emotional torment within. As
essentially the inverse of the standard male assassin/ female love interest dynamic, it stretches the limits of believability,
which is to say it’s entirely consistent with the rest of the film.

Colombiana’s plot, such as it is, turns on the most preposterous of coincidences, and appears aimless for much of its
second act. Cataleya takes out various high-level targets in sequences that are often thrilling in their complexity, but their
relationship to the main storyline –
Cataleya exacting revenge against her
parents’ killers – is unclear. Deprived of
details, Megaton expects us to subsist on
action alone, but it’s not enough to fill the
void left by the absence of story. When
Cataleya does eventually get down to the
business of revenge, it comes far too swiftly
to provide any real satisfaction.

Still, any fans of Besson’s will definitely
enjoy what’s going on in Colombiana. The
action is well thought out and executed,
Saldana is ridiculously hot, and the film
delivers all the beats required in its genre.
Hopefully, audiences will see it the same
way, allowing for a sequel where Portman
and Saldana cross paths; now that’s a
concept actually worthy of consideration.