Colombiana

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“The revenge and hit-woman genres could cross-pollinate each other. Just not here.”

There are moments where this seems to have the potential to break out beyond its story, but once you get past the strong central core, the script has very little to offer. Cataleya (Saldana) narrowly escapes death when her parents are killed on the orders of their gangster employer, Don Luis. She flees from Colombia to Chicago and is raised by a family friend, but never forgets where she came from, and has revenge on her mind. Grown-up, she becomes a hit-woman, but has a side-project of payback. She has an occasional boyfriend (Vartan) who knows little about her, and a dogged FBI agent (James), intent on tracking down the mysterious, elusive killer. Y’know: all the usual baggage that goes along with being an assassin.

The action, however, is what rescues this, and when the heroine is in motion, it’s generally fluid and effective. There are two sequences in particular that stand out: Cataleya’s hit of a gangster in prison, and the final showdown where she goes to Don Luis’s headquarters, and takes on… Well, to borrow a famous line from another Besson script, “Everyone!” They are well-staged, with Saldana showing flexibility and athleticism of an impressive degree (Besson’s fondness for parkour also shows up). However, between these two, there isn’t much to speak of; a third sequence, involving a swimming-pool filled with sharks(!) fails, mostly because you’re wondering why the hell Cataleya opted to swim across said pool rather than – oh, I dunno – walking around it?

The background stuff doesn’t work either, particularly the efforts to give her a normal life, which seem both perfunctory and contrived, and Vartan’s role is entirely pointless in emotional terms. I suspect, going by past history, Besson would have been better off directing this himself, not giving it to the man who handled the eminently forgettable Red Siren and Transporter 3. This might be as close to a Leon sequel as we’ll ever get. However, a while back, probably nearly 15 years ago now, I came up with an idea for a film about a woman who witnessed her family being killed, and a decade later, came back for her revenge. I even got as far as starting on a script. While I’m probably biased, I’m pretty sure it was better than Colombiana.

Dir: Olivier Megaton
Star: Zoe Saldana, Lennie James, Michael Vartan, Jordi Molla

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