Saturday 10 September 2011, 02:26AM
Run Time: 107 minutes
This is a film based on the simple premise of revenge. But this revenge is not served cold, nor is it particularly hot – rather it’s a lukewarm package that feels more like the leftovers from better films reheated in a plastic takeaway package.
It opens in Colombia, 1992; a young Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg) sits and stares as her parents are killed in front of her. When she finds her way to her uncle in Chicago, she vows to kill the man responsible for her parent’s death.
If that already sounds a little like Leon: The Professional, it’s because it is, with Luc Besson stamping his trademark style all over this film as co-writer and producer.
But that is where the similarities stop, because Leon was an interesting film not because of its action sequences, but rather because it had substance and emotional depth centred on the ethical dilemma of a reclusive hitman caring for a child.
There is no such emotional depth nor issues of morality raised in Colombiana.
Instead, killing is not questioned, but rather sanctioned, and some 15 years later, a grown-up Cataleya (now Zoe Saldana) is a skilfully trained assassin (taught willingly by her uncle), and is apparently cutting down everyone except those responsible for her parents’ deaths in a bizarre and fuzzily presented scheme to extract her revenge. Of course, all the people she kills are the ‘bad guys’, which makes it ok, right?
But while it’s easy to dismiss Colombiana as just another style-over-substance action flick rooted in a familiar international revenge plot line, if you’re a fan of Besson’s films, this probably won’t worry you too much, and the blistering pace and elaborately crafted action scenes are satisfying in their own right.
Unfortunately though, the fast-paced action is somewhat paradoxical. It is exciting and intense seeing the young Cataleya run through the streets of Colombia, swiftly dodging the bullets of her parent’s killers. But when a grown-up Cataleya is engaged in some of the penultimate scenes, the action is cut together so fast that it becomes blurred and it is hard to tell who is punching who.
Some of the elaborate assassination sequences, while entertaining, are also a little over the top (in particular, one involving sharks comes to mind), and it is impossible not to feel as though Cataleya is going about her killings in the most roundabout way possible. It’s entertaining, but silly, and undermines her credibility as the professional assassin she is supposed to be.
Compounding that is the fact that the plot is about as substantial as a bulimic heroin addict, and what little story there is doesn’t really make any sense. We can even look past the fact that the title Colombiana doesn’t actually have any meaning, but the idea that a young girl would avenge her parents’ brutal execution by becoming an assassin is kind of like a cancer victim becoming a cigarette salesman – it’s a little hypocritical.
In the end, if you’re a fan of Besson’s previous films, or are just after some mindless action and a semi-satisfying revenge plot, Colombiana will certainly not disappoint, but neither will it particularly impress.
– Dane Halpin