Colombiana

Colombiana

**

Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

After the iconic Nikita and young Mathilda back in the Nineties, Luc Besson has some female assassin pedigree. There may have been calls for a Leon 2 ever since, but such a direct follow-up is apparently still far from the Frenchman’s mind. Instead, he and fellow scribe Robert Mark Kamen have penned this placebo sequel of sorts.

Zoe Saldana plays Cataleya, whose parents were brutally murdered by a ruthless drug lord in Bogota when she was young. She’s taken in by her kindly-cum-brutal gangster uncle in the US and grows up to work as an assassin for him. Soon she’s taking on personal missions in her spare time, tracking down the men responsible for her parents’ death so she can wreak revenge. The FBI then starts circling in on her extracurricular activities as she nears her prey.

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Saldana treats this as the action stepping stone to better things that it clearly is. Best she not look back on the whole leaden and substandard mess. She delivers solidly with some nifty stealth acrobatics to boot, even though she wields guns that must weigh more than her. She’s gamely supported by Cliff Curtis as her accented uncle and Lennie James as the plodding FBI man trying to catch up with the carnage. Everyone else, especially the villains, are cardboard cut-outs extras from a Jackie Chan movie and just as thin and flimsy.

Michael Vartan plays the artist Cataleya gets close to. Initially, it seems Kamen and Besson are knowingly flipping dusty action stereotypes and not just copy/pasting them by rote. Vartan’s in the typically female role, a bit-part emotionally shackled to the monolithic male hero. Sadly, there is no smart contemporary riffing or gender updating. The hollow Cataleya is still a simplistic male fetish in skimpy or second-skin gear. Unsurprisingly, she can only express her emotions through sex sans foreplay, with many an Entrapment butt shot while she waits for a sensitive man to set her free on the inside.

Worse than this, neither the action nor story convince. After some soft District 13 parkour and an elaborate jailbreak hit near the beginning, from then on the assassination sequences fall disappointingly flat. Cataleya’s showdown with the end-of-level henchman, which openly aims for Bourne Ultimatum intensity, is just a confusing and noisy mish-mash. The drug lord finale is a dispiriting squib that our heroine’s ultimate soul-searching can do little to revive. Director Oliver Megaton (Transporter 3) knows how to build the fire, but it needs sparks to set it off and the script lets him down.

We’re asked to shimmy up huge drainpipes of disbelief, over and above the basic premise, which means you care little about what’s going on when the chunky exposition tries to set you straight. It feels as if writers Besson and Kamen wanted to meld the hard edge of their recent Taken with the simplistic smarts of The Transporter or Taxi. Columbiana has little of the joyous self-awareness and deliberate hyperbole of either franchise. This seems like dated second-rate actioner that forgets how its killer predecessors boldly walked before.

Reviewed on: 09 Sep 2011
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Colombiana packshot
A young woman, after witnessing her parents' murder as a child in Bogota, grows up to be a stone-cold assassin.
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Director: Olivier Megaton

Writer: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

Starring: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Mollà, Lennie James, Amandla Stenberg, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis, Beto Benites, Jesse Borrego, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Angel Garnica, Ofelia Medina,

Year: 2011

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

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