directed by Olivier Megaton
(TriStar, 2011)

Sometimes you have to take what you can get when watching a film like Colombiana. You have to sift through everything in the film -- from the storyline to the costumes -- for hopeful signs pointing to the future of films in its genre. The "sign" in this case is that Colombiana diligently follows the rules of the classic, oh-so-satisfying revenge film, and it is carried entirely by a female.

The film is about a woman named Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) who witnesses the murder of her parents at the hands of a drug lord named Don Luis. At the tender age of 10 she manages to evade her parents' murderer and convinces her guardian Emilio Restrepo (Cliff Curtis) to train her to be a professional assassin in hopes of avenging their deaths.

Colombiana is oddly linear. Thankfully, the dramatic flashback sequences we have come to expect in revenge films never make an appearance -- you won't be subjected to squiggly memories in grey-color tones with distorted sound added for flair. Instead, the film immediately begins its racing pace with 10-year-old Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg) as she battles her way through Colombia to America. Tiny Sternberg gives an amazing performance that's both kickass and solemn.

Saldana, as the adult Cataleya, rips her way through this film from her first scene, when she slams her red convertible into a police car, and she never drops her intensity from that moment. She is a mix between Jodi Foster in The Brave One, Linda Hamilton in The Terminator series and Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Cataleya grows up to become a professional hit-woman, and her marks are the types of villains who twirl their mustaches and cackle. There is plenty more to laugh about in this film than the cliche villains, but no more than in other action films. So, there isn't any reason to degrade it for its overdramatic tendencies (she paints a blood-red cattleya orchid on each of her dead marks as a signal to Don Luis that she is coming for him) or outrageous action sequences (keep your eyes peeled for her artillery battle against the cops -- in her cotton panties). It's still, for lack of a better word, kickass!

Colombiana's major flaw is that it feels contrived from beginning to end. We see Cataleya make her way through "jobs" with comical precision and planning -- at one point, she somehow utilizes a paper cup of water with a straw to shut down a prison's ventilation system. It's as if the writers themselves were afraid of putting her in any unexpectedly dangerous situations. Saldana isn't given the chance to showcase Cataleya's improvisational skills until her final fight scene with a henchman named Marco (Jordi Molla). Luckily, it's worth the wait. All you need to know is that it involves a toothbrush.

So, while it's nothing to write home about, Colombiana is a sexy, overly-dramatic good time with action sequences that can definitely hold their own amongst the films of the genre we've come to know and love. (Just remember the toothbrush!)

review by
Molly Ebert

3 March 2012

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