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A gorgeous girl, lots of guns, some cool missions, revenge. What more could you ask -- no, no, don’t look too close at that part -- what more could you ask for in a movie?
Colombiana begins with a really long montage of stock footage for the opening credits. Incredibly long. Almost two solid minutes. That may not seem like long, but look up at the ceiling and count out two minutes. Now pretend you’re waiting for a movie to start. It’s not encouraging to see that much padding up front.
Fortunately, the film recovers quickly. It’s 1992 in Bogotá, and Fabio (Jesse Borrego) has announced his retirement to his boss, drug cartel kingpin Don Luis (Beto Benites). Alas, despite the kind words and pleasant tones, Don Luis doesn’t take well to his man trying to have a life of his own, and within the hour Fabio and his wife are gunned down in front of their young daughter, Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg). Cataleya’s been prepared, though, and she escapes her would-be killers and is able to buy sanctuary from the American embassy. At least until she gets to America and slips away to find her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis). Now that she’s finally able to break down, the young girl confesses her one desire -- to become a trained killer and get revenge.
Fifteen years later, Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) is all grown up and doing just that. She’s become a top hit-woman for hire, leaving a drawing of her namesake orchid on every victim to warn Don Luis that she’s coming. The only problem is that the FBI, following standard procedure, hasn’t released that little detail to the press. Once they finally do, though, Don Luis -- now a guest of the CIA living in the U.S. -- and his lieutenant, Marco (Jordi Molla), are just as interested in finding the lethal lady as she is in finding them.
Colombiana bills itself as being “From the Writers of Taken,” and the sad truth is that it’s often a warning sign when the publicists stoop to giving credit to the writers. Much like that long opening I mentioned, though, you don’t need to be worried. This movie is almost non-stop action, from the Parkour-style chase across the rooftops of Bogotá to Cataleya’s often elaborate assassination assignments. Plus it’s got all the thrills of a heist movie as we watch her execute her missions, slipping in and out of police stations and high-security mansions with a style that would make the Impossible Missions Force jealous. You can even sympathize a little bit with her clumsy attempt to have a normal relationship with an artist (Michael Vartan), even though she has to keep him completely in the dark about her past, her chosen career, and her name.
The big catch here is that, like many non-stop action films, Colombiana doesn’t hold up well to examination. There isn’t much tension because -- unlike Taken, where we’ve got the ticking clock of Liam Neeson trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter -- Cataleya’s motivation is pure revenge. And revenge is kind of timeless. The only ticking clock is her quest to get to Don Luis before he dies of old age or someone else kills him.
In fact, I’ll go one step deeper into examining the plot. Cataleya’s really the only motivating force in this plot. Everyone else has moved on from her parents’ deaths except her. While it’s a horrible thing when her friends and family are killed, the film skirts over the fact that the mob only came searching because Cataleya kept goading them on. She’s the one demanding that Don Luis acknowledge her -- he just wants to sit in the sun and drink. At the end of the day, the film’s giving us a homicidal, revenge-driven assassin and asking us to feel sorry for her because her parents died 15 years ago and her obsession keeps getting everyone around her killed. It wants to be Batman Begins without the costume, but it feels more like Death Wish without the sympathetic lead character.
Again, though, that’s just if you think about it too much. Let’s face it -- Zoe Saldana’s just plain gorgeous, lots of stuff gets blown up, and the movie’s loads of fun if you don’t look past the surface. There are worse ways to spend an evening.
There’s a pile of previews at the top of this disc, but they’re set up as a single large block that’s a bit tough to navigate. I know I’m in the minority with my odd love of previews, though, so I won’t fault them too much for this.
There are two special features. The “Making Of” is a 25-minute press kit piece that talks about a lot of things and looks pretty, but doesn’t really offer any specifics on the different scenes and set pieces. Saldana and director Megaton talk in a general way about filming in different countries, fight scenes, firearms, and so on, but there’s nothing groundbreaking or that interesting. “Cataleya’s Journey” is shorter and focused on the main character. They add actress Stenberg to the mix, and her youth and enthusiasm make it more interesting, but it’s still just as vague as the “Making Of” featurette and you end up feeling like you didn’t quite get your money’s worth.
Colombiana is a very solid B movie that managed to get some A-level talent and money behind it. It’s not going to win any awards, but if you watch it for what it is and try not to think, it’s pretty fun.
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