Starring Zoe Saldana, eye candy and probably the only thing swaying people into the cinemas (and that’s not due to acting ability based on this performance), Colombiana follows Colombian 9 year old Cataleya, whose parents are murdered, fueling a Kill Bill-esque revenge flick as she grows up to become a cold-hearted killer.
It’s impossible to emphasise with Cataleya partly because even as a 9 year old who’s just suffered the trauma of listening to her parents being murdered, she immediately snaps into some sort of action hero super girl thing. And why didn’t her parents hide her or help her escape when the bad guys came knocking rather than just leaving her sitting in the kitchen? And why do all these Columbians speak English to each other when the opening 20 minute segment could easily have been subtitled? Riddled with plot holes, dreadful writing, relationships that make no sense and ridiculous storytelling, you just have to laugh.
It’s nice to see a female in the action hero role, but it’s such a shame the character lacks any charisma beyond a woman who doesn’t seem to feel any emotion apart from shooting lots of guns and a search at any cost for REVENGE.
When Cataleya’s Uncle asks her what she wants to be when she grows up, she nonchalantly replies “a killer” as if she simply aspired to be a vet. But a killer. Fair enough. Perhaps the greatest part of the movie comes next, when in an attempt to sway his niece from a profession he claims to not really approve of, the Uncle whips out his gun and starts shooting wildly and killing people in the street with equal nonchalance, before leaning back down and giving her a “see darling, killing people isn’t very nice”, as if he was making the point that it’s unkind to steal someone’s sweeties. And then he just walks off with his niece quietly, amidst chaos and police in this world entirely without consequences. A great character moment this was not, absolutely hilarious writing it certainly is. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
But really I could pick any number of moments, the writing is appalling. So many other set pieces could be sighted, including a laughably elongated fight scene in which both parties are on the verge of winning about 10 times but neither manages to land a killer blow. It takes some inspired editing to make what should be a really tense and important fight seem so slapstick.
Oh, and there’s the oddest romance concerning the adult Cataleya with some bloke which really goes nowhere. It’s a relationship devoid of any emotion and gives the audience no concept of what kind of relationship exists between these two individuals. Perplexing. They don’t know anything about each other at all, apart from giving an excuse for Saldana to do some frolicking. You can just imagine the studio’s painfully difficult dilemma between keeping it a family friendly 12A or going all out with a bit more flesh. In the end they try to keep it family friendly and show just a little bit of flesh.
Occasionally, the action is nicely done, including an extraordinary and over the top police cell break out (and in). It’s just a shame such fun set pieces are punctuated with so many poor attempts at screenwriting.
Despite all my criticisms it’s entertaining and unlikely to leave you bored, but probably not for the reasons the director imagined.
Colombiana is out on 9th September in the UK and out now in the US. Running time: 107 mins. Certificate 12A UK.
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Review by David Rank