Who says that dumb action movies are solely the province of men? Colombiana could have been made with Jason Statham or Clive Owen and wouldn’t have skipped a beat (make this movie in the 80’s and it’s would have starred Jean Claude Van Damme or maybe Steven Seagal) – but making the lead a female adds that little extra touch that makes this tired old story feel a little fresh and fun, as opposed to the same old thang.
Cataleya (Zoe Saldana, Avatar, The Losers) is a trained killer with a penchant for revenge and an apparent distaste for bras. She gets jobs from her Uncle and in between jobs she kills other people that are tangentially related to the cold-blooded murder of her parents long ago in Colombia. She goes around taking these guys out serial killer style (leaving cryptic notes and diagrams on the corpses), making her way slowly yet surely to the drug kingpin that orchestrated her parents’ death.
It’s a simple story, told without too much frivolity; there is a little subplot about how Cataleya occasionally shacks up with some artist every now and then though he knows nothing about her save for what she looks like naked, but this storyline is small enough to both not really matter but also not get in the way of the basic revenge plot. So that’s definitely the movie’s strength, it’s quick pace and small scale story, along with Saldana being great in the lead as the sexy, vengeful assassin of drug cartel bad guys.
But while the story’s strength is its simplicity, the biggest weakness is the movie’s stupidity. Choices are often made by characters based not on the logistics of their decisions but rather by the coolness level and how it would look on screen. For example, there’s the stereotypical police SWAT team raiding an apartment scene, and every time we see these scenes, they always use some sort of battering ram or sledgehammer to get in (if they don’t just rear back and kick the door in) – but in Colombiana the cops use an excessive amounts of explosives to blow open a wooden apartment door, causing a huge fire ball to fill up the hallway but which somehow left all of the police unharmed. They could have just kicked it in. Hell, they didn’t even check to see if it was unlocked first. They slapped some C-4 on the bastard and blew it into itty bitty little pieces. Good thing it wasn’t one of those situations where they are looking for room 9, but they go to room 6, but the 6 is flipped upside down and looks like a 9 and…well, you know the drill. That’s the intelligence level on which this film operates.
And as noted before, the lead character is something of a serial killer. Sure she has a sad “origin” story in which her parents are killed for some vague betrayal of trust between her father and a local drug lord, so we can understand why she would want to kill the people responsible. But she kind of takes the whole killer thing overboard. She gets her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis, The Fountain) to train her and give her work as an assassin, and she uses the acquired skills to kill over twenty guys linked to the offending parent-killing drug cartel. Over twenty of them? Seriously? There weren’t that many people present at the actual murder. She’s just killing anyone with any relation to this cartel, which is a little over the top. And then what’s with the whole “I’m going to leave a cryptic message by writing on the corpses with lipstick” routine? That screams of serial killer. And it reminds me of how investigating FBI Agent Ross (Lennie James, Snatch) saw the writing on the bodies, knew it was lipstick, and still thought for some reason that the killer was a guy? Because guy’s carry lipstick with them?
That’s the kind of movie we’re talking about here. So dumb that it doesn’t even realize it is asking us to root for a psychotic serial killer who is trying to fill the hole in her life with piles of dead bodies. It’s so dumb that is just pushes ahead with it’s flashy style and hyper-violence and lunkheadedness and manages to entertain on that base level – the sound and fury of an action movie with some sexy, sassy curves thrown in for good measure.
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