When nine year old Cataleya’s parents are murdered in front of her, she vows to avenge their death and dedicates her life to becoming an expert assassin.
While watching Colombiana, it becomes increasingly hard to believe that it was written by Luc Besson, the same man who brought us the excellent Leon, a high point in the assassin genre. Where that film boasted an intelligent screenplay, strong performances and genuine tension and thrills, Colombiana is a tiresome revenge thriller devoid of any of the pleasures of that film. A closer comparison would be Taken, Besson’s joyously OTT Liam Neeson vehicle that made up for what it lacked in brains with solid thrills and ridiculous violence, something Colombiana can only dream of achieving.
The plot is a simple one: Cataleya (Amanda Stenberg) watches as her parents are murdered in front of her at the age of 9. Given instructions by her father beforehand, Cataleya flees Colombia and winds up in Chicago with her uncle (Curtis). One day, in possible the film’s most preposterous scene, Cataleya tells her uncle she wants to be a killer to which he pulls out a gun and murders a driver in the middle of a busy street in broad daylight, apparently as a way of illustrating that she should stay in school to become a more efficient killer…
Of course she does and we jump forward 15 years to a grown Cataleya (Saldana), now going by the name Jennifer, faking a DUI to get inside a specific jail to slip through some air vents and murder an important prisoner staying in one of the cells. She marks the body with a rare orchid only found in Colombia, as she has with her previous 22 kills, in an attempt to get press attention and draw out the men responsible for her parent’s death.
What happens from then is a mess of poor acting, silly action scenes and utterly pointless dialogue. Every single character in this film is so utterly one dimensional that any dialogue they have is there to service the plot and nothing more. The only attempt to flesh out any character comes through a horrendous subplot involving Michael Vartan as Danny, Cataleya’s casual lover who fills the archetypal woman’s role of pining after the mysterious, emotionally detached assassin. The scenes between the two are so poorly handled by all involved that they just come across as funny.
The turgid love scenes aren’t even the worst thing in the film. One terribly directed fight scene, trying desperately for Bourne style grit, sees Cataleya facing off against her arch nemesis with a towel and two toothbrushes. There are numerous scenes of the FBI using computers that can seemingly perform miraculous acts of searching and matching data in a split second which even becomes pivotal to the plot on more than one occasion. The final face off dare not be spoiled here but could possibly be the worst climax to a film of all time.
The lack of logic or intelligence would’ve been quickly forgiven had the film been at least fun. Where Taken succeeded was by not taking itself too seriously, keeping the plot simple and making sure Neeson always had a badass one liner to hand. Colombiana seemingly aims a lot higher but fails miserably, ending up a po-faced mess with a lead who really isn’t all that likeable or interesting. It’s kind of hard to root for a woman who at one point smashes her neighbours face into a table for no apparent reason then seemingly blows up his apartment, presumably killing him in the process, just to escape the FBI. Saldana must have thought this was a great idea, a strong female lead and maybe even the beginning of a franchise. The end result isn’t a complete career killer but is definitely a step backwards. Olivier Megaton, fresh off his English language debut The Transporter 3, hardly showers himself in glory either. The film is bathed in the same vaguely green hue that seems to have become the go-to for ‘stylish’ thrillers and the action scenes are so badly cut together it’s hard to really tell who’s hitting who and if you even care anyway.