Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Never forget where you came from."

Film: Colombiana
Year 2011
Director: Olivier Megaton
Written by: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Molla, Lennie James, Amandla Stenberg, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis, Beto Benites, Jesse Borrego, Cynthia Addai-Robinson.
Running time: 108 min.

I must admit, I watch a lot of action films. But when I was watching Colombiana, I couldn't help but think, how do people write these films? How do they write these complex and intricate action scenes where people do stuff that no human should be able to do? How do they think of all these different ways to kill people? How do they make up all of these escape routes? How do they time when each explosion is going to be? When you think about it, writing an action film must be quite hard. Except, we can't put these action writers on a pedestal just yet, because more often or not, they're so tied up in trying to create the most perfectly set up action sequences that no-one can understand that they forget the basic things, like: a proper story, proper characters, and heart. Colombiana is a perfect example of that. While it has intricately detailed action sequences, it skips out on being a proper film and instead becomes a gallery of violence with some dull, lifeless scenes thrown in between.

Colombiana is pretty basic. It is another one of those vengeance tales. This one starts with the murder of young Cataleya's parents. She escapes the baddies and ends up being transported to America by the US Embassy. They try to stay with her, but she runs away to stay with her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis), who makes a deal with her that if she goes to school, he'll teach her how to become a killer. Zoom forward a few years and Cataleya (now played by Zoe Saldana) is a stone-cold assassin, performing all sorts of tasks (including getting drunk and slamming into some police) so she can kill a whole lot of people. In order to, you know, get revenge on her parent's death. We have our usual clich├ęs, including a relationship with a well-meaning artist who only wants to know the truth about Cataleya. Other than that, you could say that this is pretty much the same as any other vengeance tale you've ever seen.

At first, I thought that Colombiana was going to be quite entertaining. It is, to a degree. I can't say that I felt compelled to switch it off at any point. But then again, nothing jumped out at me. It was as flat as the laptop screen I was watching it on. Its main problem is the main protagonist, Cataleya. Because of her oh-so-secretive nature we never really get to know who she is, which wouldn't have been so much of a problem had Zoe Saldana played with her mysterious nature a little more. Saldana shows a lot of competence in her role, but she is never completely convincing. What's worse is that she is given such stupid dialogue and such false emotion that we can't really get in behind what Cataleya is doing. Everything that is said feels like it was written before bedtime and the writers were yawning all over the page. It is what you could call a half-assed job. Which, judging by what we do know about Cataleya, is something that she would never invest in.

Despite her short-comings with failing to capitalise on the already dull character, Saldana probably remains the movie's best asset. She is slinky and strong, weaving her way through the absurdly intricate webs of action she is obligated to do. Director Olivier Megaton knows just how much of an asset she is, too. There is one scene where she changes out of her 'drunk girl's' outfit and puts on a skin-tight black bodysuit. I personally didn't see the point of this, since she is apparently so good at everything that she shouldn't need to change, but Megaton just wanted to keep the male viewers glued to the scene. There are also some nearly-there sex scenes where we have her reduced to her underwear, which is also completely unnecessary since this relationship she is having is so redundant it belongs in another movie. This is the kind of stuff that comes straight from the female assassin movie text book: the female assassin always has to be sexy and has to show off that sexiness no matter how redundant the situations are. Hanna definitely has one-up on Colombiana when it comes to originality.

The film-making is so erratic and choppy that it is extremely hard to watch. And yet, the action sequences are quite dull. Just everything about it is so dull. Especially the end, which I can promise you that you have probably seen before in at least 50 different movies.

I don't think I could ever write an action movie, for fear that it might turn out like this.

What I got: 


  1. Great review! The movie sounds like it could be entertaining, but having read some reviews about it I have no desire to watch it. I think it's much better to just watch Kill Bill Vol 1 again :)

  2. HAHA This is in my worst five list on FRC. I hated it sooo much. Un entertaining, un realistic and she needs a GOOD meal to even pick up one of those guns!!

    Great review though

  3. I agree Stevee, I was excited when I first heard of this, because it had a premise that sounded like it could almost have been Luc Besson's long awaited sequel to LEON, but it ended up being such a disappointment.

  4. Shame about this. I was hoping the film will break Zoe out of her sci-fi typecasting. Guess not.

  5. Sad you didn't like this Stevee. I'm going to be a bit more wary about seeing it but I'll still give it a shot one of these days ;)

  6. Sati - Thanks! But yeah, Kill Bill is WAAAAAAAY better. Coz, you know, it is Quentin Tarantino.

    Scott - I know how much you hated it! And yes, she needs a good meal or five to pick up those guns!

    Bonjour Tristesse - It was a huge disappointment!

    Maurice - She could definitely do the assassin thing again...but she just needs to break out of action films full stop.

    Castor - Give it a never know!

  7. Ahah, it's funny that I read this review after I left you a looong comment on your latest post. When I said some movies 'are more concerned about whether the explosions/shootouts/car chases are bombastic enough...' I guess I was thinking of this movie (based on the reviews & trailer as I refuse to see it!) I did see Kill Bill and there is no way this one should even be mentioned in the same breath.


You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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