by Eric D. Snider
Released: August 26, 2011
The title character in "Colombiana" is a girl from Bogota whose parents got killed by a drug kingpin, evidently because they were involved in the drug trade themselves and, well, that's what happens. Not a lot of old, happily retired people in the Colombian drug cartels, you know? Anyway, the girl, Cataleya (played as a 9-year-old by a firecracker named Amandla Stenberg), makes her way to Chicago, where her uncle (Cliff Curtis) lives, and there she is trained in the ways of vengeance, assassination, and so forth.
All of which sounds like perfectly good fodder for a high-octane action thriller, does it not? Instead, "Colombiana" is disappointing Euro-cheese, written and produced by Euro-cheese aficionados Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen and directed by Besson's protege, the comically pseudonymed Olivier Megaton ("Transporter 3"). These fellows would have done well to re-watch some of the stupid-cool action flicks that inspired them -- including some of Besson's -- to remind themselves of the basics: go big or go home; maintain a fast pace; and keep things short.
We jump ahead 15 years. Cataleya, now played by the beautiful but emaciated Zoe Saldana, has been bumping off bad guys one at a time in an effort to draw out the guy she's really after, who's hiding in the U.S. under the CIA's protection. Our introduction to her as an adult sets a precedent for the rest of the movie: she assassinates one of her targets by executing a plan -- all by herself -- that requires her to do several physically impossible things while relying on an intricate knowledge of floor plans, security measures, and schedules that she could not possibly know, some of which would in fact be impossible to predict.
When she isn't performing superhuman feats of mind-reading and acrobatics, she's carrying on a pointless relationship with a guy named Danny (Michael Vartan), who doesn't know her real name or anything else about her but loves having sex with her. Somehow he thinks he has fallen in love with her for real, though this is unlikely, not to mention boring.
Meanwhile, an FBI agent (Lennie James) is hunting this mysterious assassin, eager to learn who's killing all the bad guys so he can thank her, I guess. Dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, etc. You know the drill. You'll know it really well by the time the movie is over, because it sticks to the formula without deviation.
If "Colombiana" were 25 minutes shorter, it would probably be an agreeably dumb action flick. But since we can't possibly be expected to take any of it seriously -- right? RIGHT?? -- why try our patience by dragging things out for 107 minutes? We all love a steamy pile of frivolous nonsense now and then, but it has to move quickly or we lose interest, like a joke that stops being funny. Megaton and company do know it's a joke, right? RIGHT??
Rated PG-13, a lot of action violence, moderate profanity and one F-word, brief moderate sexuality
1 hr., 47 min.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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