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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Colombiana
Colombiana
Sony Pictures // PG-13 // August 26, 2011
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted August 27, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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Colombiana-Review


The setup: A young girl named Cataleya, who lives in Bogata, witnesses the death of her parents by a ruthless mobster. Cataleya escapes the same fate and winds up living in America with one mission on her mind - to become a killer who can eventually take out the man who was responsible for her parent's deaths. Present day Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) is now an adult assassin who is working towards that very mission. She also lives a double life under a different name and rendezvous with Danny Delany (Michael Vartan). Danny has no idea of what she is doing or of her haunting past. Cataleya is also being tracked by Special Agent Ross (Lennie James) who seems determined to uncover and stop this mysterious assassin.

The performances are generally pretty strong - sometimes surprisingly effective. Zoe Saldana definitely manages to carry much of the film and makes for an excellent lead. Saldana makes the problematic story more relatable and the action more interesting. Both her overall persona and her performance are well fitted to this kind of action picture and while she is certainly capable of being in much grander fare this role does use her wit, sexiness, and strength appropriately. Michael Vartan does an adequate job as the romantic interest though he is given considerably less to do with his part and the role seems like a faint echo of his great role as Vaughn on the acclaimed television series Alias. Lennie James does the best he can with his role as Special Agent Ross, but there are moments where one might hope that there is more story behind this character but it is instead sometimes merely hinted at. Cliff Curtis also delivers a rather unique and bizarre performance as a sort-of father figure to Cataleya, as his character often seems to be conflicted between actually helping Cataleya with her misguided idea of revenge and guiding her down a much different path altogether.

The script by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen garners mixed results. There are moments in the film where there are some genuine attempts at creating an emotional core to the story. The script dutifully attempts to create said emotional core but while the writing seems to genuinely attempt great things most of the time it sort of just ebbs back and forth between being repetitive and mediocre (with many elements far too similar to countless other action/suspense films) and a false sense of emotion won't help audiences to connect to a character who is a cold-blooded killer even though some displays of emotion may be generally well-deserved and earned.

The film aims to discuss thematically what It means for someone like Cataleya to be a killer and if she is actually making the right decisions. Cataleya clearly isn't - murdering is wrong - but audiences can still feel sympathetic to her for losing her parents as a child and in such a ruthless way. Yet the ruthlessness rubs off on her and one might feel that this is actually a tragic story that is being told even if the script is not always to convey that element as effectively as it could.

The music score by Nathaniel Mechaly is a fairly bland and typical action-based score that one can often find in this type of production. It doesn't really manage to improve any sequences beyond the ordinary emphasis on reminding audiences that what they are watching is supposed to feel like adrenaline action. It's nothing remarkable and it doesn't benefit the film's more dramatic moments, which could have used some added depth.

The direction is the biggest drawback to the entire film and it arrives hand in hand with the chaotic and frequently irritating editing that makes many sequences seem annoyingly hard to follow. Director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3) has shown some noteworthy improvement since his debut film in the franchise which stars action-whiz Jason Statham but just as Megaton's name ironically implies he isn't necessarily an expert in subtlety and refinement. There is often a sense of little rhyme or reason existing behind the way a sequence plays out. Moments that could be played for emotion are instead jolted with action and moments that should be emotional seem awkwardly edited and stylized in comparison. Transporter 3 was mostly mediocre entertainment in comparison to the much more entertaining first two films in that series and Megaton seemed to have no clue at all about how to tell the story with that effort, but with Colombiana the filmmaker has shown some real improvement - there is a greater sense of coherency and the film manages to at least have a fairly brisk pace that is beneficial to the narrative even if it is sometimes unable to muster real emotions and even if the action sequences are often the weakest moments of the entire effort.

The reason Colombiana ends up being such a disappointing effort is perhaps primarily because it feels like something that has already been done time and time again without offering enough originality and the characters and story are simply not well-crafted enough to make the lack of originality seem like less of an issue.  Luc Besson has crafted and contributed to far better films and while the filmmaker remains a favorite of mine Columbiana will not be remembered as a particularly notable project.  It does manage to be fleetingly entertaining and Zoe Saldana can walk away from the project completely unscathed as she was largely responsible for the film actually working well when it did pull off some successful parts. Audiences might even find the film to be enjoyable enough but little will linger in one's thoughts after the credits begin to roll. This is one mission that was not entirely accomplished.  

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

Buy tickets to "Colombiana" now!

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