“Colombiana,” written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, directed by Olivier Megaton, 107 minutes, rated PG-13.
No matter how talented Zoe Saldana may be (I have a sneaking suspicion that she is, in fact, quite talented), Hollywood refuses to see her as anything but an action star. It seems studios would rather stick some guns in her hands than give her a role with some depth.
“Colombiana,” from director Olivier Megaton (“Transporter 3”), again features Saldana flexing her femme fatale muscles. This time around she’s Cataleya, a trained killer who, as a young girl growing up in Colombia, witnessed her parents’ killing at the hands of drug lords.
At age 10, Cataleya flees from her native Colombia for refuge with some kindhearted, crime-affiliated family in Chicago. It is there where she learns the ropes of assassination, and most importantly, how to get away with it.
Revenge is the name of the game here, and Cataleya’s target is Don Luis (Beto Benites), the crime boss responsible for her parents’ death. He has struck up a bargain with the CIA and found amnesty in the United States.
Cataleya taunts Don Luis with lipstick drawings of the Cattleya orchid (found only in Colombia) on her victims, in an attempt to lure him out of hiding and into her death trap.
In Cataleya, “Colombiana” creates a perfect assassin with ice flowing through her veins. Cold and emotionless, her precision and confidence is what keeps you on the edge of your seat. With Cataleya’s unreadable poker face, you know there’s always a plan, but it remains a mystery until it begins to unfold.
“Colombiana,” however, struggles to find its own identity. It relies on inspiration from the films of Luc Besson (he’s a co-writer, after all), Tony Scott, and the “Bourne” trilogy, using them less as a springboard and more like a crutch. The film is an amalgam of past actioners that once revolutionized the genre, presenting some impressive parkour, espionage and bullet ballet without a unique voice behind it.
“Colombiana” isn’t a bad movie, it’s just too content with living in the shadows of greatness. A stronger set of supporting characters might have given the film some much-needed personality. Unfortunately, Michael Vartan is wasted in a weak relationship subplot, and Cliff Curtis takes a strange turn that almost borders on parody as Cataleya’s adoptive gangster father.
As for Saldana: There are times in “Colombiana” when you see a blossoming actress ready to become a full-fledged star, not just a girl with guns. And then there are times when she just seems rightfully bored with the material. In the future, I want to see more of the former.
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