Zoe Saldana, Callum Blue, Michael Vartan
Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Colombiana: The Making Of;
Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) is a young woman who escapes from Bolivia after a drug lord (Beto Benites) has her parents gunned down. Landing in Chicago, she hooks up with her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis).
Warm and fuzzy?
Um. Not quite.
Said by co-writer and producer Luc Besson to have originally been envisioned as a follow-up to his most successful film, the Natalie Portman led The Professional, Colombiana follows Cataleya as she is taught by her uncle how to kill. Over 20+ kills later, she's become quite the assassin with her eye on the ultimate kill ... the drug lord who gunned down her parents. However, by the time Cataleya's exploits attract the attention of those in Colombia who would still like to see her dead, she's found herself in a brand new family and has to decide for herself whether to risk everything in the name of vengeance.
Natalie Portman was a 13-year-old newbie when she co-starred in Besson's The Professional, a film that started it all for Portman and, most would say, served as the pinnacle of Besson's career. Colombiana feels like it could very well be the story of a buffed up, pumped up Matilda (Portman's character) later in life and quite a bit angrier. It's doubtful that Portman, even after her rather psychotic Oscar-winning performance in Black Swan, could manifest a performance such as Saldana's energized and inspired turn here.
Just as Portman's performance transcended The Professional, so too does Saldana's transcend Colombiana. Despite the fact that director Olivier Megaton is from the Besson stable of filmmakers, their approach feels mismatched. Megaton's direction is certainly, at least at times, beautiful to behold and highly stylized. However, it feels off kilter with Besson and co-writer Robert Mark Kamen's surprisingly plot-filled script ... at least plot filled in the sense that the story feels the need to add unnecessary and muddled plot developments that go nowhere and don't add up to anything. The attempt serves to bog down Megaton's direction, which features the usual hyperactive action sequences so common in Besson's work.
Saldana is perfectly cast here, able to exude the calm ruthlessness necessary to convince as an assassin while eliciting a surprising depth of sympathy due to her back story of childhood trauma and the occasional subtle glimpses of humanity she offers.
There are action sequences, especially those involving Saldana, that are incredible to watch and they can't help but make you wonder why James Cameron wasn't inspired to better utilize this aspect of Saldana in Avatar. Michael Vartan, as Cataleya's boyfriend, helps to add the perfect degree of humanity by grounding the film in a certain degree of warmth.
While Colombiana never achieves the intellectual and emotional depth to which it at times seems to aspire, it is a showcase for Saldana's action skills and shows that she could certainly give Angelina Jolie a run for her money in the kick-ass action female department. Unfortunately, Megaton never really gives his star a chance to shine and in all likelihood this late summer release is headed towards a quick burn-out at the box-office and a longer life on home video before the holidays.
© Written by Richard Propes
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Richard Propes, The Independent Critic