Film Review: Colombiana
Luc Besson once wrote great scripts. Full of inventive action, enjoyably over-the-top characters and plenty of subtext for the cinema audience to digest long after the film itself ended. Need proof? See Leon: The Professional, The Big Blue, Subway or Le Dernier Combat. Heck, even The Fifth Element is surprisingly deep.
Today? Not so much.
A young girl, Cataleya, witnesses her father’s murder by his criminal partners. She swears revenge and promptly escapes to the US, where she is groomed by her uncle to become a ruthless and cunning killer. When she reaches adulthood, she promptly starts fulfilling her childhood promise, triggering said criminals to respond, resulting in a bloody showdown. So far, so cliché.
But does the actual execution of this fill-in-the-blanks plot improve on its muted expectations?
Colombiana’s first act shows great promise, and if only it weren’t for the desperately contrived dialogue and horribly recycled, two-dimensional villains, we would be watching an interesting drama about a traumatized child finding strength and retribution in the only thing she knows: violence.
But as soon as Zoe Saldana enters the picture, as the adult Cataleya, it becomes abundantly clear what sort of film we are about to experience; a simple revenge flick where the numerous action sequences are interwoven with The Most Predictable Plot of the Year. Director Olivier Megaton (way too cool a name for such a mediocre director) is unable to hide the vast shortcomings of Besson’s script, although he manages to put together some pretty nifty action set-pieces. Cataleya’s first on-screen kill, inside a police station’s cellblock, is particularly well conducted, utilizing Saldana’s catlike physical abilities to her fullest.
In fact, the whole film (bar the first half of the first act) is The Zoe Saldana Show, where she attacks every scene, every chase, every shootout, every fight and every conversation with her infectious energy and feral charm. And for her presence alone, many of the film’s numerous flaws, like a conclusion we’ve all seen a million times before, are forgiven.
Another redeeming feature is a refreshingly enjoyable soundtrack, where well-selected found music interlaces the original score, strengthening many of the film’s more quiet scenes.
Final verdict: A generic revenge thriller, void of a single original conversation or plot twist, redeemed by a powerful turn by lead actress Zoe Saldana, who commands every scene she’s in, of which thankfully there are plenty. Also, intermittently impressive action sequences and a vivid soundtrack partly hide the script’s glaring drawbacks, resulting in a mildly enjoyable, if instantly forgettable, experience.