Colombiana Review

It’s 1992 in Bogota, Colombia. Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg) is sitting at a table as her parents are murdered by Colombian drug dealers. Using her impressive parkour skills, she manages to escape with a microchip, doubling as her airfare, to the US Embassy. She escapes the Americans too, and flees to Chicago to meet up with her last remaining relative, Uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis). She expresses her desire to exact revenge on her parent’s killers, so Emilio agrees to train her into a one woman killing machine.

Fast forward fifteen years, and Cataleya has grown up to be the typical Luc Besson leading lady, played by Zoe Saldana. Shaped by a trauma in her early life, she eschews pants and breathable clothing, and welcomes violence and weaponry into her life, hell bent on finding those who killed her parents (Beto Benites, Jordi Molla), and making them pay with their lives. As she kills her way through the Colombian underworld, she paints a cataleya orchid on her victims, letting Don Luis know that she’s coming, and catching the eye of the FBI (Callum Blue).

In many respects, Colombiana is a typical revenge movie, one that has been churned out in recent years. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, instead rehashing action sequences which we’ve all seen before, from crawling through air vents, to blowing holes through walls, a girl in a bra spraying bullets. At one point, she calls someone in an office building from an adjacent office building. They don’t know they’re Bourne, these kids. The shark tank scene raised a chuckle though, director Olivier Megaton is as subtle as his name suggests.

Colombiana sits in the awkward grey area of being too action-y to really develop it’s characters, and too emotional to be an all out action flick. The love plot seems a little superfluous, with the hapless Danny desperate to know something, “anything”, about our stone cold heroine. Cataleya is fairly taciturn throughout. In one moderately amusing scene, her artsy boyfriend (Michael Vartan) insists that she talk about her feelings, much to her discomfort. But he’s a bit of a non-character too, and the attempt to humanise Cataleya falls flat. The emotional drive of the film is the audience caring about her trauma, and unfortunately, it’s unlikely they will.

Saldana isn’t really called upon to act; firing a gun in her matching underpants is simply enough. Amandla Stenberg steals the show in the opening sequences. Whilst it’s commendable because she’s ten years old, it’s a shame that Saldana couldn’t live up to the potential that Stenberg brings to the table.

At best, Colombiana could be a fun, silly, no-brainer of an action flick. Unfortunately it took itself too seriously, and didn’t have the script to back up this assertion. It came off frantic and acrobatic, throwing itself from one action scene to another, with some crying thrown in because, despite what the FBI might think, Cataleya is a woman. The tone never knows quite where it’s going, and the clashes grew to be irksome. Cataleya’s revenge may be beautiful, but it wasn’t served cold, just a bit reheated.

Review courtesy of Frances Taylor

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