Friday, December 30, 2011

"Colombiana" (2011)

Starring Zoe Saldana, Cliff Curtis and Lennie James
Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Running Time: 108 Minutes

Sometimes the enjoyment of a film comes not from the film itself, but from the audience.  B-movies of this type are a good counterpoint to serious films.

A young girl witnesses her parents' murder at the hands of Colombian gang lords.  She uses her father's stolen information on the organization to buy her way into the United States, where she goes to live with her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis).  She asks him to teach her to be a killer so she can get revenge on the people who murdered her parents.

Fifteen years later, Cataleya Restrepo (Zoe Saldana) is a contract killer for hire.  Her uncle locates members of the Colombian gang that killed her parents in America and she pulls off elaborate infiltration schemes to murder them, frustrating FBI investigators who believe they are tracking a serial killer.  Hot on Cataleya's trail is FBI Agent Ross (Lennie James), who begins to uncover a greater plot involving his serial killer when his leads start pointing toward the CIA.  When he tries to get information out of CIA Agent Richard (Callum Blue), he's shut down.  It turns out Richard is in league with drug lord Don Luis, now residing in the US.  Don Luis knows Cataleya is after him and his organization, and sends his top man, Marco (Jordi Molla) to stop her.

Cataleya is getting closer to Don Luis, who is getting more desperate to stop her.  Ross gets a big break when Cataleya's sort-of boyfriend makes a tactical error and takes a picture of her with his cell phone.  Now, with her identity blown, Cataleya must go on the run and force a final confrontation with Marco and Don Luis to get her revenge.

Oh, boy.  I'm not sure where to start on this one.  From the over-long prologue to the painful dialogue and bizarre direction choices, this is not a movie that holds enjoyment in and of itself.  It's not a good movie.  Why did I enjoy it, then?  Because we were making fun of it.  There are a couple of cool flourishes here or there ("...Eat.") but otherwise, this is a pretty lame action movie.  None of the characters are developed in any fashion.  Zoe Saldana's Cataleya is a lean, muscular character who goes about every aspect of her life with the same razor-sharp determination - even having sex with her kindly artist "boyfriend" Danny (Michael Vartan, grossly underutilized).  She simply shows up, jumps him, and then leaves before he wakes up in the morning.

The action beats of the film are overblown and absurd.  At one point, Uncle Emilio pulls out a gun and fires at a random car driving by on the street in broad daylight... at a school... in full view of dozens of witnesses.  Moments later, police cars screech on scene, and Emilio simply puts his gun away and walks off down the street.  Why?  Who knows.  Every explosion in the film is completely overdone, as well.  A simple door-breach charge causes a massive fireball that nearly incinerates the SWAT team that set it.  A shot from an RPG blows apart what seems like half of Don Luis' mansion.  A hand grenade fills rooms above and below with fire.  Incredible.

A critical hand to hand fight between Cataleya and Marco at the climax is lost in super-fast editing and shaky camera nonsense, which is too bad because what we can see of it, it seems like it was impressively choreographed.  Saldana takes to her action scenes well, slinking about stealthily until it's time to unleash her vicious combat skills.  But her character is given very little emotional weight, so all she is in the film is an unstoppable action robot.

There's fun to be had laughing at "Colombiana" rather than with it.  If you get yourself a couple of like-minded friends, you're sure to have a good time wasting a couple hours with it.  But take it seriously at your own risk.