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Review - "Colombiana" (Well... It's Better Than "Transporter 3")

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 26, 2011 at 5:55AM

Reposting my review since the movie officially opens today, and all the discussion that follows in the comment section. Feel free to jump in...
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Reposting my review since the movie officially opens today, and all the discussion that follows in the comment section. Feel free to jump in...

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What a silly little movie this is; at times fun, and even the occasional slick thrill, but ultimately laughable, B-movie tripe.

I probably should have guessed something was up when it was noted amongst members of the film press that Sony/Tristar (the film’s distributor) hadn’t scheduled the usual run of pre-release press screenings for Colombiana. Often when that happens, it’s an indication of how the distributor feels critical reaction to the film will be – in this case, negative.

In case you haven’t noticed, there hasn’t exactly been a wealth of reviews of the film thus far, despite the fact that it’ll be in theaters this week.

And all that’s unfortunate, given that it’s incredibly rare that an action movie of this caliber and prominence, with an international cast and crew of talents, features a lead that isn’t white and male.

Colombiana’s central appeal to many I believe is/was the fact that a black woman would, for once, be carrying the gun. But the gravity of that didn’t really register with me, because it’s just not a very good movie. In the end, it’s a forgettable *cheap* trick that’s better suited as a lazy Sunday afternoon rental, or cable TV watch.

So for those hoping this would be some kind of a nod to womens’ lib, I wouldn’t be brandishing any pom-poms just yet.

This is a movie for fanboys – emphasis on “boys;” both the young and old variety. I was in that group once, so I get it; I can see how this would play oh-so well to those who pissed on themselves in watching director Olivier Megaton’s last film, Transporter 3 – yet another piece of overcooked, mindless waste (though Colombiana is definitely a step up), also produced by Luc Besson, by the way. And just as our hero in that film, played by Jason Statham, bares his fit torso on numerous occasions, while annihilating goons in dense numbers, and sometimes simultaneously, for a good chunk of Colombiana, Zoe Saldana’s lean frame is, shall we say, exposed, as she also dispenses the baddies, frequently in attire that leaves little to the imagination.

Not that I’m complaining; although, some may have an extremely difficult time buying this 100-pound “skinny thing” (if I may) as a vengeful killer. And maybe taking that into consideration while making the movie, Besson and Megaton restrict her destruction to the use of weaponry, instead of fists and kicks of fury. Though worth noting is that her slenderness actually works to her advantage in certain sequences in which Saldana, as the vengeful Cataleya (which, by the way, translates as "Orchid" – “you know, like the flower” – a point that’s not-so-subtlety made throughout the film) has to maneuver her frame through extremely narrow cracks and crevices.

But her lack of physical size didn’t bother me as much as some other more improbable aspects of the movie; after all size doesn’t always automatically indicate strength and ability. I’ve seen David obliterate Goliath enough times to believe that - and not just in movies – so I wasn’t entirely distracted by Zoe in this role.

I’d even say that Ms Saldana comes out of this dubious thriller with her dignity intact. She does her best with the material she’s given (which just isn’t much). But she holds court here; she has to; she’s the star; otherwise the movie fails miserably, and this review would be even more pejorative.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't tip my hat to Mr Lennie James who has a much more plump role in this than marketing for the film indicates. He leads the FBI team of agents hunting Saldana's killer Cataleya, and is on screen quite a bit. He's a good actor; but like Zoe, his talents are mostly wasted here.

Colombiana is really just one cheesy, predictable affair. You've seen this all before, and done a lot better. Not that I was looking for something revolutionary, but the trailers did impress me enough that I was genuinely looking forward to the delivery.

The good thing I suppose is that it doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is. It’s not a boring movie. As already noted, Saldana delivers, for the most part, as our determined, steely-eyed, taciturn emotionally-troubled but tough action hero, capable of incredible physical feats – even as a little girl (you’ll watch in befuddled amazement as little Cataleya, played by 13-year-old Amandla Stenberg, escapes a group of baddies, as she leaps from high places, landing with confidence, jumps over obstacles, floats through windows, runs through busy narrow streets, eventually sliding through a sewer gap, much to the frustration of the armed men chasing after her. Obviously she gets away; but damn, I was hoping that there would be SOME explanation for how this little kid learned to move like she’d been trained by Jason Bourne).

Alas, none was given. So I guess the audience is expected to overlook such a glaring question mark; and it’s not the only one.

For its target audience, it’ll probably be a perfectly acceptable, albeit brainless PG-13 action thriller. Those looking for something more, dare I say adult and substantive, will be sorely disappointed, and should probably wait to catch this as a rental instead.

The bar just isn’t set very high here.

Director Olivier Megaton says he got his last name from his birthday: the 6th of August 1965, which was the 20th anniversary of the dropping of the Hiroshima A-bomb. Oh the irony…

While I don’t expect the film to bomb at the box office, I don’t think it’ll do big money here in the USA; but that’s not unusual for Besson films, which tend to make the bulk of their earnings in international markets, not in the states. However, Saldana’s presence in this might attract audiences that have mostly avoided past Besson actioners, like Transporter 3. Sure, fanboys will be there; however, I’d expect some ticket sales from fangirls/women too – maybe more than usual for a film like this.

Kudos to Zoe, I suppose, in what may be a film that we look back to in a few years as a career marker of some sort; this should certainly help improve her international presence and appeal, which should (hopefully) lead to a wide variety of work. There was talk of a sequel to Colombiana, as both she and Besson mentioned in a previous item we posted here. I certainly hope not. Though my opinion means nothing, especially if the film is a financial success. A Transporter-like franchise for Zoe might be brewing here, who knows...

But don’t take my word for it; see it for yourselves :)


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