While still a small child, Cataleya Restrepo (Zoe Saldana) witnesses a gang of brutal thugs murder her parents over a particularly valuable piece of information. When they don’t find it, they turn to Cataleya, who parkours away through the slums of Bogota, Colombia, high-tails it to the American embassy, and promptly turns over the information.
Doing so gets her safely out of her cocaine-addled homeland, and onto the slightly less cocaine-addled streets of Chicago, Illinois. Little Cataleya doesn’t want to go to school, or buy pretty dresses, or even do more parkour. She wants revenge on the men who killed her parents.
Fast forward a dozen or so years, to Cataleya being raised by her loving uncle and assassination tutor Emilio (Cliff Curtis). Meanwhile, Don Luis (Beto Benites), the man who killed Cataleya’s parents, is now firmly entrenched in the United States of America, alongside his faithful second in command Marco (Jordi Molla). While the environment in question has changed from Colombia to New Orleans, the game is still the same. Don Luis runs his criminal enterprise and is surrounded by armed thugs, only now he’s got the help of the CIA to keep himself safe from his enemies. Pretty sneaky, Don Luis!
There’s only one thing causing Don Luis strife. His associates from the criminal underworld he’s nebulously in charge of? They keep ending up dead. In four years, twenty-two of them have died, with various words and a peculiar lipstick drawing of a lotus later found on their bodies. Could this perhaps be related to the girl (who happens to be named after a Colombian cultivar of lotus) whose parents he had killed a decade plus ago?
The premise of Colombiana is a very simple one. In fact, it’s a common one for Luc Besson, who wrote this flick with frequent collaborator Robert Mark Kamen. Someone’s been wronged, and there will be bloody satisfaction had. In this case, that someone is a gorgeous woman with access to a whole lot of machine guns, and her bloody satisfaction will be had against a horde of Central American gangsters.
In many ways, Colombiana plays out in the way I’ve always imagined Besson had in mind for Leon: The Professional 2, except Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman are too hot to jet off to France to shoot another Euro-action classic. Like a lot of Besson flicks, Colombiana has the standard speeches, the standard emotional breakdown scenes, and of course, some rare-but-funny comedy.
You know what you’re getting from Colombiana just from the trailers alone. Saldana has a great look, physically, for the lithe and nimble assassin type, and her associated baddies all look like tough, bad dudes. She puts in a very good performance, especially by action movie standards. Don Luis, however, is pretty tough to understand due to his accent.
Zoe also gets to carry the emotional weight of the movie, with a couple of good tearful breakdowns. She’s cold when she needs to be, and emotional when she has to be, and she’s a pretty impressive action movie chick, which isn’t much of a surprise. She’s tough, and her performance proves that.
Colombiana is a competent action film, but it’s a little too formulaic. We’ve seen it all before, and we’ve seen it done by a better director. Still, it’s entertaining enough, and the scenes of Saldana creeping through buildings and executing intricate kill plots are good, but it’s just a little too hyperactive.
In particular, the climactic fight scene is nearly incomprehensible thanks to shaking cameras and too many cuts. That’s all your fault, Olivier Megaton; you did the same kind of thing to Transporter 3, and I’m still sad about it. Granted, Megaton is creative with the camera, but sometimes there’s too much creativity and not enough coherent storytelling