There are dumb action movies and then there's Colombiana, a revenge flick so relentlessly ridiculous and blatantly brain-damaged that you've got to wonder if the filmmakers are just messing with us from behind the camera. It would be one thing if the film were a broadly cartoonish romp like the 2007 spoof Shoot 'Em Up or a beautifully executed bit of absurdity such as John Woo's lone Hollywood masterpiece, Face/Off. But Colombiana is neither witty enough nor stylish enough to qualify as an "accidentally on purpose" guilty pleasure. Mainly it's just a waste of time, talent and resources on a movie that would feel more at home in the direct-to-DVD aisle of your local big box store than on a multiplex marquee.
A product of the Luc Besson Action Factory (which has produced such superiorly daft as Taken, District B13 and The Transporter movies) Colombiana cheerfully strip mines the prolific writer/producer/director's back catalogue for material, beginning with one of his best-known films, La Femme Nikita. After seeing her parents gunned down by a Colombian crime cartel, young Cateleya makes the laborious journey to her uncle (Cliff Curtis) in Chicago, where she announces what it is she wants to be when she grows up: an assassin. Flash-forward 15 years and the now-grown girl (Zoe Saldana) is living the dream, traveling the globe offing bad guys for big paydays and using the proceeds to outfit her Windy City apartment with the latest in surveillance technology and big-ass guns. But she still hasn't been able to flush out the man that killed her parents and who promptly escaped into CIA custody following their deaths.
Fortunately, the few clues she's been leaving behind at the sites of her 22 kills are starting to pay off. When a photo of her latest crime scene hits the press, it lights up alarm bells within the CIA and galvanizes the crime boss to find a way to finish Cateleya off once and for all. He's not the only one eager to track her down; a dogged FBI agent (Lennie James) has been investigating her killing spree and uses all his resources -- including her sort-of boyfriend Danny (Michael Vartan) -- to see her brought to justice.
If you're looking to cast a steely-eyed female assassin that seems capable of single-handedly taking out an entire crime ring, you could do a heck of a lot worse than Saldana. A former dancer, the actress has a lithe physicality that's used to great effect in her first (and best) set-piece, which finds Cateleya slinking her way through a police station's air ducts in order to reach her target, currently resting in a guarded jail cell. (Saldana's skinny frame does work against her in a later action sequence, when she runs through the halls of her apartment building carrying a gun that's got at least 20 pounds on her.) Beyond her physical presence, she also carries herself with a convincing don't-mess-with-this attitude that she previously demonstrated in J.J. Abrams' lively Star Trek reboot and The Losers, another mostly terrible action movie that became instantly more watchable whenever she was on screen.
In the hands of a more attentive director, Saldana might have been able to create an actual character out of this walking collection of clichés. But the focus of Colombiana's helmer Olivier Megaton (a terrific name for a profoundly mediocre action movie director) is elsewhere, specifically on getting the most bang out of his obviously limited bucks. He displays a pronounced lack of imagination and resourcefulness in this area, though, mostly aping other movies (an opening Parkour chase through the streets of Bogota is a direct lift from District B13 as well as Casino Royale) and editing every action sequence to within an inch of its life so that you can barely tell where the bullets and/or punches land. Look, I enjoy a big, loud, dumb action movie as much as the next guy or girl, but I could practically feel my brain cells shutting down the longer I watched Colombiana.
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