Colombiana

Colombiana takes itself far too seriously. I don’t remember a character ever smiling, which isn’t frequently a good sign in an action movie. And with a silly one like this, I know it’s not a good thing. Here is a movie so ridiculous that I don’t even understand the lead character — the one we’re supposed to be empathizing with. I get how she was negatively impacted as a child by witnessing the murder of her parents, but after that, she goes completely off the rails and makes absolutely no sense.

The film stars Zoe Saldana as Cataleya, the girl who, as a child, witnessed the demise of her parents. She was already prepared for a hard life, though, as once the gangsters who killed them got to her, she stabbed one of them in the hand, swore revenge, and then bolted. And she was like 8 when this happened, meaning that her parents must have given her an extraordinary childhood. Anyway, 15 years later, and she still hasn’t gotten her revenge. Instead, she’s become a serial killer, targeting all of the gangster except the one she desperately wants to kill.

Why is that? I really have no idea. She claims later in the film that she has to lure him out, but that’s a load of hooey. If she really wanted to track him down and end the movie right away, she could have. I mean, one of the earliest scenes with her as an adult involves ramming a police car, getting put in prison for a DUI, then breaking out, climbing through vents and over walls, all to kill someone who was in that prison for one day while being transported to a more secure facility. Can’t find one guy? Please!

It’s all an excuse to have a bunch of action scenes with Zoe Saldana in the lead anyway, isn’t it? The film never puts her in any real danger, presenting her as the baddest and most deadly force known to mankind, while the rest of the world is at her mercy. I kind of dig that, if only because there aren’t enough female-led action flicks, but it poses a problem in feeling like the action scenes mean anything. If she can’t even get hurt, what danger is there, and where is the tension?

I had trouble getting behind Cataleya as a character, though, which is a bigger problem. She’s a serial killer, first and foremost, and she seems to have blocked out all emotion so that she can focus on her target … which, let me remind you, has taken her 15 years to find. The rest of her family doesn’t seem to mean much to her, her “boyfriend” is there to provide one thing for her, and she’s just boring and unlikable. Having her lead a 2 hour movie doesn’t work out as well as the filmmakers might have expected.

Had the action scenes actually been good, I might have been able to forgive this. Some of them are, and there were parts of Colombiana that I enjoyed. The prison sequence, for instance, was executed well. But many of the action scenes have no sense of danger, are quick-cut so rapidly that it’s hard to tell what’s going on, and rely so much on the character prepping everything off-screen beforehand, ensuring that the bad guys fall into her traps that only she knows about because the screenwriters were making things up as they went.

Neither character motivations nor the general plot makes sense. There are a few plot holes scattered throughout — noticeable ones that you’ll probably question on a first viewing — and I didn’t understand why anyone did everything they did. Lennie James shows up as a Detective tracking the serial killer, and I actually liked him more than I liked Cataleya, even though he was presented as the bad guy for … doing his job, I guess.

I suppose anyone just wanting to see an action film produced by Luc Besson will be getting what they expect, especially if they’re using the Transporter series as their basis on what the man brings to the screen. In a lot of ways, Colombiana feels like Transporter, although those ones generally had better action scenes. Except for Transporter 3, that is, as it can just be put in the trash can and never be talked about again. Actually, just for mentioning it, I should be putting a dollar in the swear jar.

If there’s one fun thing to watch, it’s Zoe Saldana, who handles herself fine in the action scenes where we can tell what’s going on. She brings credibility to the role, and if she wanted to launch herself as an action star, this was the right type of film to do it. The role is physically demanding, and she’s in the right kind of shape to pull it off and look like she could, in fact, scale a building, for example. Or handle a bad guy in a fish fight, which happens a couple of times. Or even swim with a pool of sharks, which made me wonder how she got into the pool in the first place. But that’s not important, I guess.

Colombiana might have been salvageable if it took itself a little less seriously. You know, a laugh here or a wink there would have gone a long way with me. But instead, we get an unlikable protagonist that we can’t even understand, a plot that is filled with holes, and a bunch of action scenes that aren’t constructed with very much skill. Saldana could be an action star, and that’s the one revelation that comes out of this film. The rest just doesn’t make enough sense.

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