Years from now, Zoe Saldana will probably best be remembered as Uhuru from the new Star Trek series, but with her latest film, Colombiana she proves that she can kick a whole lot of ass just as well as she can translate alien languages.
Colombiana tells the story of Cataleya Restrepo (Amandla Stenberg at age ten and Saldana for the rest of the film). At the age of ten she watches as a drug lords henchmen gun down her parents in front of her. After an exciting chase through the city of Bogata, Columbia, Cataleya escapes the men and with some information her father gave her makes her way to America. There she meets up with her uncle (Cliff Curtis) in Chicago who she begs to teach her how to be a killer. Now grown up and a lethal assassin, Cataleya kills for money while tracking down the men who killed her parents.
While not the most original of stories, Colombiana succeeds in providing some great sequences that more often than not aren’t the most believable, but in the moment they are generally so bad ass that you don’t care how believable they are. The film slows down at times to provide Cataleya with an emotional core so that she can be the kind of trained assassin you can care about. Though, this is the kind of action film where there is never any real threat to the hero. She is always five steps ahead of her adversary even if all logic is thrown out the window to get her there.
It’s certainly not a perfect film. Beyond the logical flaws (which don’t hurt its overall enjoyment) the final fight scene in Colombiana is very poorly shot. The director and cinematographer chose style over substance and showed that either they don’t know how to shoot a hand to hand combat fight, or their actors didn’t know how and they needed to cover that up. That said, the way the final fight ends was awesome and I’m not going to spoil that surprise here. The other thing that really bothered me, oddly enough, was the use of Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” at the end of the film. It’s a great song, but it’s inclusion here felt very trite.
What really holds it together, though, is Saldana. If for one second the audience didn’t believe that Cataleya was a coldblooded killer then the whole film would be lost. Saldana really brings this character to life elevating her above your usual one dimensional action hero which is one of the more appealing aspects of the film.
When it comes to Luc Besson (who co-wrote the screenplay) your chances of having a good time are pretty high. I mean not only did he direct La Femme Nikita and Leon but he has written many great action movies including Taken starring Liam Neeson. Colombiana isn’t one of his strongest efforts but sure is an entertaining film.
This film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and 5.1 DTS-HD MA English, French and Portuguese Surround. This is a pretty good looking film and the blu-ray really jumps of the screen. The sound for the most part fine, but at times the dialog is too quiet compared to the music and explosions.
The Making Of: (25 min.) A typical, but interesting behind the scenes. Cataleya’s Journey: (9 min.) If nothing else you get some great interviews with Amandla Stenberg who plays Cataleya for the first 30 minutes of the film. Assassins: (12 min.) Kind of a repeat of the making of, but a few more interesting nuggets thrown in. Training A Killer: (6 min.) Saldana discusses her training for the film. Take The Ride: (7 min.) and here they discuss all the locations where the film was shot.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Colombiana – would it be a good Luc Besson film or a bad one? I was pleasantly surprised and entertained for the most part. Where it lacks in originality it makes up for in character development which most action films sorely lack. The only other thing I kept thinking all through the film was, “Why isn’t Danny Trejo in this?”
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Colombiana. Directed by: Olivier Megaton. Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Starring: Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis, Callum Blue and Amandla Stenberg. Running time: 111 min. Rating: Unrated. Released on DVD: December 20, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.