Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Premise: A young assassin (Zoe Saldana) tracks down and kills the drug lords who killed her parents.
What Works: For viewers who can’t get enough of action films—and these days straightforward, original action pictures without superheroes are harder and harder to come by—Columbiana should be a welcome entry into the tail end of the 2011 summer movie season. Colombiana was co-written and produced by Luc Besson and this is the kind of film that has become Besson’s regular output, as evidenced by his filmography which includes Leon, La Femme Nikita, The Transporter, and Taken. Viewed in that context, Colombiana is mostly at the same level of quality as Besson’s other films and in some ways it is even a little less ridiculous, at least for its genre. The film is lean and well told and its action scenes focus less on running and shooting and more on cat and mouse stalking scenarios. Colombiana is led by Zoe Saldana as the assassin and like Besson has assumed a niche as a revenge fantasy screenwriter, Saldanda has begun to establish herself as a feminine action hero. Colombina follows Saldana’s work in other films like The Losers, Avatar, and Pirates of the Caribbean and she is cultivating an action persona from these films. But to her credit, Saldana does not phone in the performance in Colombiana. She has a few very strong dramatic scenes with her love interest (Michael Vartan) and her mentor (Cliff Curtis) that strengthens her character and give her some human vulnerability and bestows a sense of purpose to her mission.
What Doesn’t: The trouble with Colombiana is the same problem that a lot of Luc Besson’s assassin thrillers face: they are clichéd and anachronistic. Colombiana presents the same scenario that have been seen for decades in assassin films from James Bond to Jason Bourne but this film is specifically inspired by the Arnold Schwarzenegger films of the 1980s and the Jean Claude Van Damme films of the 1990s. Colombiana relies on a style and a set of action film values that hit their peak a long time ago and by now it’s all been seen before. Where the Jason Bourne films took that genre in a new direction with smart filmmaking and layered characterization, Colombiana is Luc Besson making essentially the same film over again for the umpteenth time. It’s all been seen before and there is nothing here in the action scenes, the characters, or the plot that is new or very interesting.
Bottom Line: For action movie fans, Colombiana is worth the time to see. It is not likely that anyone is going to remember this film a year after it is released but it is the kind of action adventure distraction that Luc Besson does well.
Episode: #354 (September 4, 2011)