Screenwriter/Director/Producer/Auteur Luc Besson is no stranger to armed and dangerous females – we’ve seen his participation wearing those mantles in such films as Leon: The Professional, la Femme Nikita, and The Fifth Element. We know Director Olivier Megaton from his previous filmTransporter 3 as a guy who can deliver high octane action. Well these two have partnered up and have brought us Colombiana which opened today.
Starring Zoe Saldana (Avatar), Colombiana has a simple premise: a 9 year girl (played by Amandla Stenberg) witnesses the drug cartel’s assassination of her mother and her father in Bogota, Colombia. In an excellent chase sequence, nearly as good as any you’ve seen in the Bourne films, young Cateleya manages to barely escape from the hired thugs. She has a passport to freedom using the info her father provided for her and by turning this over to CIA station chief in Bogota. Her father also provided her with some family connections in Chicago who will take care of her.
15 Years later, Cateleya, now played Zoe Saldana is now a kick-ass hired gun. She can shoot, rig explosives, make parkour moves, and can outthink, outsmart, and outfight any of her targets or pursuers. She’s as close to invincible as it gets. She does contract work but along with that she’s been finding and doing in, one by one, the gang that killed her parents. Her name might be Catelya, she’s been named after a specific orchid flower, but beyond her name, she is a warrior. She’s driven by revenge and she’s very fierce. If you thought last winter’s Hanna was the latest and best of the new action heroines you’d be right. Cateleya is Hanna now all grown up with an even bigger chip on her shoulder.
As was once said about a certain Terminator – Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. Well, Catelya is an upgrade over the robotic Terminator in terms of looks, and she’s human. Other than that, the motivation is almost the same.
Okay – I hear the protests – another female revenge film, ho-hum. Another film where shell casings accumulate like overturned buckets of pop-corn. Been there. Another film with a female action hero that must have her strip down to bra and panties. Done that. What else is new?
Just because it isn’t new doesn’t mean it can’t be good people. Besson and Megaton have given us an exciting film that may not have any new ideas – but the trade off is that it does a extremely good job of being exciting and pays homage to some of the best action films ever.
Catelya – Jason Bourne: same/same
Final attack sequence at the drug lord’s mansion. We saw that in Scarface.You see it again here.
Bullet Ballet? First we had John Woo’s Hard Boiled, then we had The Matrix. Now we have Colombiana.
Parkour chase scene/Rooftop chase: The District 13 films, Bourne chasing across roof tops as did Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry; and now we have a chase to equal that with a little 9 year old girl fleeing for life.
You want more: some cartoon-ish cops, over-the top villains, a heroine who always seems to have necessary passports, arms, and munitions at her disposal, a smarmy evil CIA operative, and oh yes – one good cop.
There’s not much in the way of humor, and there is a hand to hand fight sequence which was hurt slightly by the intentionally choppy editing, but was just as fierce as the fight Bourne had with the ‘asset’ in Morocco.
There’s even a knife through the hand that I believe we saw in Black Rain, among others.
In summary: it is a trade off – you’ll have to live with the nothing new aspect of Colombiana, and the fact that there’s really not a lot of suspense, but the pay-off is that you get a movie that has plenty of unexpected thrills and lots of superb action set pieces which you definitely will admire and enjoy.