Zoe Saldana in Colombiana.
There are unconfirmed rumors that Luc Besson's script for Colombiana was adapted from his long anticipated sequel script to his 1994 film, The Professional. The two movies certainly have similarities. Both feature a young girl whose parents are murdered because of drugs, prompting the young girl to seek a life of revenge. Colombiana differs by showing what happens after the little girl grows up. It also differs by being pretty awful and lacking all the emotional resonance that made The Professional so good.
The story starts 15 years ago when 9 year old Cataleya's parents are killed by a Colombian drug warlord. Cateleya escapes and with the help of some condemning evidence against the warlord, is granted asylum in the United States. Once there she gives the authorities the slip and makes her way to Chicago where she has a mobster uncle. Cut to modern day and Cataleya is now played by Zoe Saldana and has become an assassin for hire. Her real quest though is to track down and murder the man and his henchmen responsible for her parent's death.
If you're going to cast someone to play a hired killer, that person needs to make you believe they could be a killer. I never bought Zoe Saldana as a killer. Hell, the little girl who plays Cataleya at 9 seems more capable of killing someone than she does. For one thing, it looks like a light wind would knock her over. She has to carry a large sniper rifle at one point and I'm amazed she's able to even pick it up. The few times she actually gets into a fight, with much larger men, it's almost laughable. I had a similar problem with Angelina Jolie's Salt, but at least Jolie has the attitude of a killer, Saldana seems more comfortable in the crying scenes than she does in the action ones. Don't get me wrong, she's hot and a good actress, but this is just simple miscasting.
Even the most perfect casting though wouldn't make up for the incredibly lazy and sloppy writing. As an example, the first kill a grown-up Cataleya performs is in a jail. To gain access to the man she wants to kill she climbs up through the ventilation shaft that is conveniently placed throughout the jail with vents big enough for at least two people to climb through. The vents aren't secured and are able to be opened and closed without tools from inside the prison cells. Oh and the shafts lead from the cells to outside the building. How do they keep anyone inside?
Later the FBI are lead to Cataleya's house by the most extreme coincidence. Until this point they only know that Cataleya was in the jail as a prisoner and have always assumed that the killer was a man. Instead of merely sending someone around to question her, they send an army in to capture or kill her. They have dozens of police in full armor and lots of explosives to blow up her door. It's a scene lifted almost directly from The Professional, but in that movie it at least made sense.
With the implausible action, the miscasting and the poor script, there's not very much to enjoy. I never really even felt all that much empathy with Cataleya. I did at first when she was 9, but much less so as an adult. In fact, the opening action scene and the subsequent chase are the best parts of the entire film.
If this was going to be the sequel to The Professional, I'm glad it was wasted here. I only hope if Besson does ever get around to making that sequel, he puts more effort into the script than he did with this one.
Michael Vartan and Zoe Saldana in Colombiana
It takes 45 minutes to establish that Cataleya's parents were killed and she grew up to be an assassin seeking revenge. It would have been more interesting to find her back story out later. This would have peaked the audiences interest as we would want to know how and why she became who she is. Besides, an explanation to her boyfriend or the FBI, would have taken a lot less time than it does here.
As Scott wrote, her kills are ridiculous. Her sneaking into the prison cell via a ventilation shaft makes as much sense as her sneaking into a mansion via a shark filled, glass covered pool. Far too many coincidences have to fall into place before she could do what she does. The assault on her apartment is pointless. Some men run in, a few explosions occur and she gets away. The movie has a half hour left at that point. Do we really think she gets caught?
The film's big climax is Cataleya going after the guy she stabbed in the hand when she was a child. This marks only her third kill in the entire film. We are told she killed more than 20 people, but in almost two hours of film time we see her go after only three targets.
The film's best moment is when her last target is sitting in his mansion and the rocket comes flying into his house. How he actually dies is disappointing. Had he taken another vehicle or merely ran away he would have lived. It is just another stupid coincidence in a series of lucky breaks for Cataleya. Yeah Scott, this is some seriously lazy writing.
Zoe Saldana in Colombiana.
Colombiana offers up some mild B-movie entertainment if you can get past the lazy script and sloppy directing. I'm with Scott about the opening sequence with Cataleya as a young girl. It's the tensest, most exciting part of the entire movie. Amandla Stenberg makes a more believable killer than Zoe Saldana.
There's a fine line between gripping action and over-the-top silliness. Colombiana crosses that line several times. The killing in the jail cell is patently ridiculous for all the reasons mentioned above. And the scene at the climax that Eric liked is also pretty unrealistic. She fires a rocket-propelled grenade into a room filled with men. Balls of fire explode out all the windows and every piece of furniture in the room is blown to bits but somehow the men survive? And when she gives the “eat” order to her dogs, through her cell phone, I literally laughed out loud.
Unfortunately this isn't supposed to be a spoof. Saldana (and everyone else in the cast for that matter) plays it all completely straight. It's too bad the script is filled with such ludicrous action sequences.
Take the scene early on where the young Cataleya is walking with her uncle from the school where she has just been registered. She tells him she wants to be a killer when she grows up. To deter her, like a good responsible adult would, he takes out his gun and begins shooting at a random car coming down the street. The car crashes, pedestrians scream and police sirens are heard, followed quickly by several police cars. Meanwhile Cataleya and her uncle merely walk off down the street without even being approached by the authorities.
I was never bored watching Colombiana, but I was sometimes more amused by its flaws than thrilled by its action.
Photos © Copyright TriStar Pictures (2011)