COLOMBIANA Review: A Sexy But Empty Mess

A cynical mash-up of Besson’s Leon and Nikita, though without their depth of character or emotional warmth.

(apologies for our late review, the sparse press screenings for this movie were never kind to our schedules but Shaun Munro volunteered to pay to see the film over the weekend)

rating: 2

Boasting the year€™s most irritating trailer €“ which forced the phrase €œDon€™t forget where you came from€ down our throats like it€™s the new €œThis is Sparta!€ €“ Colombiana does not invite high expectations right out of the gate. Luc Besson, who seems to have pretty much given up on directing action films for himself now, farms yet another half-baked project out to a spuriously skilled protégé, this time Transporter 3 director Oliver Megaton, and the result €“ one which largely wasn€™t screened for the press €“ is for the most part quite laughable, and in the very least, positively mediocre. Essentially a ropey patchwork of several of Besson€™s better films, Colombiana opens with a half-hour prologue in which Cataleya, a young Colombian girl, witnesses the murder of her parents at the hands of drug kingpin Marco (Jordi Molla). She is rescued from a destitute life by her uncle, Emilio (Cliff Curtis), though remains driven by a thirst for revenge while Emilio tries to steer her away from a life of violence. From here, we catch up with Cataleya as an adult (now played by Zoe Saldana), where she has carried out a string of assassinations with the hope of attracting Marco€™s attention for one final showdown. It€™s easy to see how the film lazily borrows from the best-known works of Besson€™s career €“ the prologue shamelessly rips off Leon and the rest of the film lifts liberally enough from Nikita €“ and this would actually be forgivable were the film executed with any panache or sense of fun. Instead, it€™s a joyless experience nearly from start to finish, drumming up a laundry list of absurd contrivances which are more dumb than silly, in no way reflecting how human beings react in the real world. It begins with strange oddities like a young Cataleya escaping from a sewer but not closing the manhole cover to avoid detection, but truly stretches audience complicity to gossamer-thin lengths when Cliff Curtis€™ mentor character opens fire on a car in a crowded street in broad daylight and isn€™t fingered to the police, who show up while he€™s still on the scene. Still, the film at least has no pretensions to grittiness or authenticity, and this, combined with the gratuitous explosions and shots of Zoe Saldana walking around while clearly not wearing a bra, ably suggests the film was written with the exact mindset of a 12 year-old boy sat at the back of a classroom doodling into a sketch book. There€™s little doubting Saldana€™s eminent appeal here; she looks fantastic and carries off both the sass and sexiness well, but the piecemeal script, devoid of the pained vulnerability of Besson€™s aforementioned works, undermines her efforts and denies her agency. At some point vague titillation has to give way to something more substantial, but the brain-dead screenplay appeals strictly to the so-called €œvideo game crowd€, a term which, within the context of this risible script, and as a gamer, I feel does the demographic a disservice. A mindless action film can still succeed if it proudly embraces its label and delivers frenetic thrills to compensate, yet as with Megaton€™s last film, slapdash direction and horrendous editing hamper the fun, making the action €“ and the film€™s final mano-y-mano fight in particular €“ more a chore of comprehension than anything approaching exciting or entertaining. Shots lasting no more than a half-second each populate the final slug-fest in great abundance, resulting an in ugly, head-ache inducing blur which only accentuates the already brain cell-depleting quality of the homely script. Colombiana will struggle to even find an audience among forgiving apologists with a weak knee for the revenge shoot-em-up genre precisely because it can€™t manage to deliver the basic action goods amid a messy production, despite Ms. Saldana€™s committed turn. A cynical mash-up of Besson€™s Leon and Nikita, though without their depth of character or emotional warmth. Colombiana is in cinema's now.
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Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at] gmail.com.