Review: “Colombiana” a Let Down

"Colombiana" was co-written and produced by Luc Besson, the man who in 1994 gave Natalie Portman her first starring role, in "The Professional." Both films involve young girls whose families are murdered by folks involved in the drug trade, and then turn to an older man to learn the art of murder so they can seek revenge. Besson's original take on this film is a cult classic, the kind of movie that stops channel surfers in their tracks. This new version is an uneven mess whose sincere laughs are far outnumbered by the unintentional ones.

This time around it's Zoe Saldana, as Cataleya, who's all grown up and out for blood. As a child she manages to escape her parents' killers, get to the U.S. Embassy, catch a flight to Miami, escape the feds, hop a bus to Chicago and reunite with her uncle. One has to admire her sense of purpose as she complains bitterly to her uncle that the school she's just been enrolled in can’t teach her anything about how to kill the men who murdered her parents. He responds to this by (spoiler alert) pulling a gun from his coat and pumping a barrage of rounds into a passing car, and asking her to choose between his gun and her backpack. And from there the inanities march on…

It seems that Cataleya's body and brain are so finely tuned that she can, with Swiss precision, bite a hole in a plastic cup so that it drips water at a specific rate. And the magical way in which FBI computers work will leaving a viewer either chilled by how easily the government can identify you from the grainiest surveillance video, or laughing in memory of the guy in "Super Troopers" clicking away at his keyboard saying "Enhance… Enhance…Enhance…"

"Colombiana" is so committed to remaining true to the lamest of action film tropes that Cataleya even has a love interest, played by Michael Vartan (who likes to hang with sexy assassins), whose sole purpose is to whine about how they don’t have a real relationship and screw things up for our hero. It's a stock character that's made no less tiresome and annoying by the gender flip.

Watching Saldana slink about, taking down her prey one by one, it's hard not to feel sorry for her--she deserves better than this dopey script. She looks great, she moves well, she's comfortable hoisting a 50-millimeter rifle… the least Besson and director Olivier Megaton could do is spare her the gratuitous dance scene, the bad dialogue, the overly emotive pleas and the rest. She deserves better than "Colombiana," and so do we.

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