Starring Zoe Saldana, Michael
Vartan and Callum Blue
Personally, I’m a fan of this strange fringe universe. Every week we get movies that PR departments can’t quite figure out to whom to market. Maybe it’s a big-budget studio movie that didn’t test well, or a high-concept movie that defies explanation, or a modestly budgeted crowd-pleaser that seems too small for summer but too violent for the holidays. To put it best, dumpster-diving can be fun!
“Colombiana” is an exciting action/revenge film that revels in its filthy excesses. This is the kind of movie the dumpster exists to showcase. Producer Luc Besson has made these kind of movies his entire career. He practically relaunched the low-budget action flick with 1990’s “La Femme Nikita.” After directing some truly epic low-budget action pieces, like “Léon: The Professional,” Besson eventually moved behind the camera, and started producing a number of thrillers and action films like the “Transporter” movies and “Taken.” “Colombiana” is of the same ilk. High on energy, low on story.
Cataleya is a young girl (Amandla Stenberg) living in Bogotá. Her life is picture-perfect until her family is brutally murdered. Sure, it’s a plot point that shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s Bogotá, whose only cinematic purpose seems to exist as a backdrop for movies about people killed by the illegal drug trade. (Cinematically speaking, South America doesn’t get much love. With the exception of Rio De Janeiro, its terrain comes across like the world’s most arid garbage pile.) After Cataleya’s parents are murdered, she makes her way to America and begins to obsess about killing everyone responsible for slaying her family.
Flash forward a few years—we meet modern-day Cataleya (Zoe Saldana). She’s super sexy, cunning and all about the righteous kill. The paper-thin plot is little more than an excuse to get Cataleya into elaborate assassination scenarios while wet and/or sweaty. Hot on her heels are some FBI agents who have been investigating the killings since all of the victims have been tagged with the image of a cataleya flower. Yeah, I know. Ballsy, right? Leaving her name at the scene of every crime? Not exactly the best way to remain anonymous, and a slam dunk for the prosecutor who ends up trying the case.
I’m not entirely sure about Zoe Saldana. I’ve seen her in a half-dozen pictures, and I don’t have any real feelings about her, positive or negative. She’s a perfectly functional actress who tends to over-emote a smidge. Yet, she’s easy enough on the eyes and believable as a severely scarred killing machine. There’s some effort made to try and make Cataleya’s story even more tragic. She has a somewhat normal life she’s crafted for herself and a relationship with a good looking artist. Life for the modern woman is not easy. Juggling a relationship, a career and a childhood obsession with revenge takes its toll. They don’t make self-help books that cover this kind of thing.
The movie’s more kinetic elements are what save it from becoming more than a pile of melodramatic pulp. People are dying in droves. It’s a virtual murder-palooza. Like Besson’s previously produced effort, the action works best when its large and senseless. The villains are the typical greedy, clichéd stereotypes who possess the depth of a pamphlet on tact written by the Kardashians. It’s simple, stupid, violent fun. Not quite good enough to be a re-watchable guilty pleasure, but not bad enough where I left the theater feeling cheated.
If sex and violence had a baby, she would be named “Colombiana.” And that’s fine. I don’t go into a movie like this expecting high art; I’m completely comfortable watching a movie whose only goals are violent and base.
This time last year, we were swimming in the dumpster with awesome movies like “Machete.” “Colombiana” never quite achieves the same kind of B-movie awesomeness, but for what it is—a simple action thriller—it’s a single, solitary notch above average.