Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Film Review #36

Colombiana (2011)
Director: Olivier Megaton Starring: Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis, Lennie James, Callum Blue, Jordi Molla, Beto Benites, Jesse Borrego, Amandla Stenberg

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 108 Minutes

Tagline: "Vengeance is beautiful."

A while back here at Red Parsley I took a look at some of Hollywood's finest arse-kicking chicks. I'd like to think it was and remains a fairly respectable list but I've discovered a few more ladies lately who might also be worthy of inclusion. One featured in the superb 'Hanna' and it seems we may have another here in this thriller directed by the awesomely-named Frenchman, Olivier Megaton. The character in question is called Cataleya and is played by rising star, Saldana. We first meet her in Colombia as the child of Fabio (Borrego) who's a gangster trying to leave the employ of drug baron, Don Luis (Benites). Predictably, Fabio's intentions do not go down well with Don Luis who has him and his wife killed, but not before he passes a 'valuable item' wanted by his boss to his young daughter who of course manages to escape and find her way to the American embassy. Once she arrives in the US she seeks out an uncle, Emilio (Curtis), in Chicago who agrees to train her to fight and to kill.

We catch up with her fifteen years later where it emerges she has forged a successful career as an assassin while at the same time plotting revenge against Don Luis and his minions who have now also made the move to the Land of Opportunity. So yes, as you may have already guessed from the hardly-inconspicious tagline, Colombiana is a revenge film, and the thing that's often of vital importance with films like this is whether or not we care about the protagonist, namely the delightful Cataleya, and by extension her 'mission'. One thing's for sure - whether it's as a young, newly-orphaned girl (Stenberg), or as an adult trained killer (Saldana), she certainly impresses in the numerous action scenes which are of the chase, infiltration, and standard shoot-out types. As satisfying as these are, however, there is little emotional connection with our 'hero' despite some more tender moments with her boyfriend (Blue) and even an FBI agent (James).

It could be because she's avenging someone who perhaps doesn't warrant it - her father wasn't exactly an innocent bystander after all. Questionable motives aside, however, the end product is a fairly solid if not particularly original action-thriller. Few of the other characters are remotely memorable, and the film is probably offensive to Colombians, but Saldana just about engages the attention enough to keep you watching. There is one particularly superb scene involving a jail break-in, and some tense moments as the police close in on her, but I can't help feeling a slightly more polished script and a more sympathetic main character would've made this a gripping film for its entire duration. The involvement of Luc Besson (who acts as both writer and producer) can't turn this into a must-see thrill-ride but it's not a disaster either.

RKS Score: 6/10


  1. I just watched this and had much the same reaction. An OK action film but not as good as it could have been. It really got my hopes up early on when the girl stabs the guy in the hand and announces she is going to get revenge....then it sort of lost me about half way through. I agree though that the jail break in scene was good.

    The action in general was good, but the dialogue was pretty awful and the acting, except for the actress in the main role and one or two others, was just terrible. I`ve noticed this in a lot of Besson films, the supporting cast are usually so bad that it gets distracting. With some of them their performance was so stiff it actually felt like they were simply reading their lines off a piece of paper as they said them. Not sure if that is because of the actors or poor direction, but it was very noticable in this one.

    The other thing that made the film suffer was the unnecessary romantic subplot. It was just a distraction from the revenge main plot, which is what the audience really wanted to see. It didn`t help that it was set up so poorly that we never felt any actual romance between them too. The music was also off - way too emotional.

    I have to compare this to Kill Bill, which is also a movie about a female assassin getting revenge against someone who killed her loved ones. Tarantino did it right. No cringe inducing romantic subplot, no second rate acting and when the dialogue was corny it was because it was intended to be so. This movie on the other hand seemed like it was taking itself way too seriously sometimes, when what it really needed was a bit of levity.

  2. I think you said it better than I did, Sean! :P I agree completely though, it started well - the little girl's escape was also good, I thought, but went downhill soon after. Cliff Curtis was quite good too, but the remaining supporting actors were immediately forgettable. Kill Bill is one of my all-time favourite films so I agree about that too. Many say that QT isn't original and that he copies from everyone else, but the difference is - he usually improves on them too! Kill Bill did have a small romantic sub-plot - between the Bride and Bill - but that was important to the story and QT gave it as little time as he could :)

  3. I love Kill Bill too. Tarantino definitely has his influences but he adds so much to them that he has a style of his own that sets his films apart.

    Good point about the romantic subplot in Kill Bill, I don`t know how that slipped my mind! Perhaps it was because it was so intertwined with the main plot that it wasn`t really a subplot. Also it didn`t suck at all like this one. It seemed like the romantic scenes in Columbiana were thrown in there for no reason whatsoever, other than the filmmaker thinking that every movie should have one. In Kill Bill the whole two movies were building up to the stand off between them and as we went along we learned a bit more about their history and past romance. In Columbiana they just suddenly throw this guy in there and we don`t understand why she likes him or he likes her (other than them both being attractive) and it just feels so boring to watch as a result!

  4. Yeah, you're right about the Kill Bill romantic sub-plot, it's pretty much the whole reason for the 'roaring rampage of revenge' to start with! The one in Colombiana seemed latched-on to try and make the character more sympathetic. Every time it showed her with him I kept expecting him to betray her or for something major to happen, but it never did!

    Regarding KB, I went to a lot of effort to get hold of the uncut and longer Japanese version. I suppose it's pretty easy for you to obtain though! However, when I was telling someone about it, he told me there's an uncut version of KB2 as well. Have you ever heard of that?

    By the way, did you know there's a Volume 3 and Volume 4 on the way? ;)

  5. LOL, I was in Japan when Kill Bill was released so I didn`t even know the version I was watching was a special, Japan-only longer version! Interesting, I wonder which parts you guys in the rest of the world missed out on:)

    Is there really a volume 3 and 4 coming? But Bill is already dead! Ooooooohhhhh I don`t know.....sounds like something that could really backfire, with the trend these days of making sequels to older film series that generally fail to live up to the high standards of the original...

  6. The Japanese cut of KB features a slightly longer (and gorier) anime sequence and the House of Blue Leaves scene is quite a bit longer. Our version of the latter was also in black & white for a majority of its duration :(

    Volumes 3 and 4 will apparently focus on Nikki's revenge, as hinted at in Volume 1. QT said that she will be trained by Elle and Sophie to take on the Bride and that they will be set (and filmed) ten years after Volume 2. By my calculations, that means they'll be released in 2014. Can't wait! Tee hee hee!