Colombiana is an OK movie that thinks has more substance than it actually does. Zoe Saldana gives a fine performance and shows that she can kick ass and look great doing it, nothing wrong with that, however, the story never connects on an emotional level and the plot is something we’ve seen many times before.
Genre(s): Action, Thriller, Drama
Sony | Unrated – 111 min. – $35.99 | December 20, 2011
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Writer(s): Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen (written by)
Cast: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Molla, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis
Theatrical Release Date: August 26, 2011
Features: Featurettes, BD-Live, UltraViolet Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.35
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
French writer/producer Luc Besson has had a hit and miss career between the weird (The Fifth Element), intense (Taken) and action-packed (The Transporter). The latest, in collaboration with Taken co-writer Robert Mark Kamen – was also behind The Karate Kid, Lethal Weapon 3 and Bandidas to name a few – is Colombiana.
The story begins with a girl named Cataleya who witnesses the assassinations of her mother and father on the orders of a Colombian gangster. Leading the attack is Marco (JORDI MOLIA) and before he could kill Cataleya, he needed a flash drive with important documents. The wily girl uses the opportunity to stab Marco in the hand and make the great escape. She manages, from the instructions her father gave before he was killed, to make her way to the U.S. embassy and uses the flash card as her ticket into the United States. Once there, she gives her State Department chaperone the slip and goes to Chicago where her Uncle Restrep (CLIFF CURTIS) lives with his mother and apparently is a violent but well respected fellow in the neighborhood.
It’s not long living with her uncle when she reveals that she wants revenge on her parents’ killers, for which he agrees to train her. Flash forward 15 years and now a grown up Cataleya is seemingly a seasoned killer. We see her in action when she purposely rams her car into a police cruiser, acts like Paris Hilton (i.e. drunk) and gets a nice cell to sleep it off. It just so happens that the same night a high level bad guy is being escorted by the U.S. Marshals and staying in a separate area of the jail. Once in the clear, Cataleya goes into action: slipping on a hidden cat suit, disabling the air system, maneuvers through the ducts, knocks out a U.S. Marshal, assassinates the target (with a calling card scribed on his chest) and, after a lengthy foot pursuit on the rooftop, manages to get back into her cell before security rushes in to secure the facility.
Phew, that is quite the journey and in Hollywood fashion, so much had to go right for her to even accomplish it… But that’s to be expected from a Luc Besson screenplay. I’ll get back to the screenplay in a bit because that is this film’s weakest link.
After going back to her home, a stark apartment with a tap into the building’s surveillance system, she connects with her boyfriend on the fly, artist Danny (MICHAEL VARTAN), and then goes through a procedure to make contact with Uncle Restrep who has her next assignment. But remember the calling card? Well, she painted on an orchid flower as a way to get the attention of Marco and his boss. Also, this being her 22nd assassination, it had already caught the eye of FBI Agent Ross (LENNIE JAMES) who had been keeping the calling card out of the press but out of leads, allowed it to be printed. This, of course, comes back to bite her in the ass.
I won’t go into the plot any further as you can probably see where this is going, but I mentioned before that the biggest issue I had with this film had to do with the screenplay more than anything else. While we get to see the trauma that sculpts and molds the rest of her life, I never really got the emotional depth for Cataleya. This is in contrast to Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills character in Taken. Despite that film is only 90-minutes long I got a more emotional depth out of it than I did in 105-minutes with Colombiana.
Of course, one could point to the film’s star. Where Liam Neeson brought a certain gravity to the part, Zoe Saldana is more sleek, even cat like in her manners and killings. It’s not as in your face by comparison, but the role fits for Saldana who between Avatar and the Star Trek reboot, is on a role. But still, I believe that despite a weak screenplay and plot, she does the best job possible with what she was given. Take for instance the boyfriend angle. Played by Michael Vartan of “Alias” fame, the role seemed almost like an afterthought giving the two very few scenes together and only one real scene with any sort of depth.
And that’s the shame about Colombiana. Luc Besson might not consistently make the best movies, but they generally are entertaining if not also containing a heart at the core. You look at Le Professional, La Femme Nikita or the aforementioned Taken, each film had some kind of emotion surround the action. What we get here seems only to be a hot chick played by an actress with some great talent but what’s there at the core? We see why the character does what she does but when the film was over, all I could do was merely shrug my shoulders and move on to the next movie not giving this one a second thought.
In the end, Colombiana has some entertainment value and Zoe Saldana shows that she’s no flash in the pan but everything else about the movie is ordinary from the action to the plot. I’d say it’s worth a rental at this point.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
The Blu-ray comes inside a standard case with a semi-glossy slip cover.
Colombiana: The Making of (25:12; HD) – This is a half-decent behind-the-scenes featurette, better than the featurette title anyway, that shows the different locations the film was shot (France, America, Mexico) and we get some comments from the filmmakers talking about the plot and characters.
Cataleya’s Journey (9:33; HD) takes a look at the character first played by a little girl and then by Zoe Saldana. Not sure what the purpose of this featurette is mainly because the filmmakers and cast basically just go over the plot.
Assassins (11:54; HD) is a decently lengthy featurette that covers some more about the character and specifically about Zoe Saldana’s take, along with others, on the role and preparation for it. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Training a Killer (6:03; HD) is a short featurette where the filmmakers and cast delve into the training aspect of the role from fighting to weapons. It’s not bad but would’ve been better in a longer making-of featurette. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Take the Ride (7:46; HD) goes into the countries and cities (Paris, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami and Mexico City) where Colombiana was shot. Again, this could’ve been a part of a longer documentary, but as a standalone, it’s alright. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
All told, there’s only an hour’s worth of material, which is fine but without a commentary or a set of deleted/extended scenes, it feels incomplete.
Previews – Straw Dogs (2011), The Rum Diary, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Retreat (Red Band), Drive, Attack the Block
Also included is a BD-Live portal and an UltraViolet Digital Copy download code, both of which are ** Blu-ray Exclusives **.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Colombiana slinks and shoots its way on Blu-ray with a crisp looking 1080p high-def transfer and in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. Now, I should mention that the film does have an oversaturated look to it but for one it’s by design and second, it doesn’t look bad. There’s a fair amount of natural film grain and noise but never goes overboard, keeping detail levels in check. The black levels also look good, never seeming artificially crushed. It’s not the most colorful looking film but I think has a home on Blu-ray.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
The disc comes with an effective DTS-HD Master Audio track. As one would expect, the action scenes make this lossless track come to life but still has the subtleties to provide crisp and clear audio during the quieter moments, for which there are a few. The bass level isn’t the best but even keeled and doesn’t go overboard while the rear channels shows off the more ambient or off-screen noises. This isn’t the best HD track I’ve comes across, but it’s more than satisfactory.
OVERALL – 3.25/5
Overall, Colombiana is an OK movie that thinks has more substance than it actually does. Zoe Saldana gives a fine performance and shows that she can kick ass and look great doing it, nothing wrong with that, however, the story never connects on an emotional level and the plot is something we’ve seen many times before. The Blu-ray at least has great looking and sounding video/audio transfers while the features are standard but provide some insight into the making of the movie.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2.