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With all these superladies soon to be making their way onscreen; like The Avengers’ Black Widow and The Dark Knight Rises’ Catwoman, I have to wonder why Avatar star Zoe Saldana wasn’t invited to the comic book party?  In the new actioner, Colombiana, Saldana proves herself more than capable as a lean, mean fighting machine who looks rather sharp in a spandex catsuit. Where’s the love, Jon Favreau and Christopher Nolan?

In the midst of Colombia’s drug wars, Cataleya’s father’s time has run out.  After giving the last words of love and instruction he hoped he’d never have to say to his only child, Cataleya’s parents are annihilated by her father’s drug-running boss.  As the little girl flees like an Olympic sprinter through the city streets, the escape drills instilled in her by her dad find her on the road to safety in America; Chicago, in fact, where Cataleya’s uncle, Emilio, and grandmother welcome her as the beloved long-lost family she is.  Living on the fringes of criminal life, Emilio is determined to do better for his niece than he did for himself or his murdered son; seeing her through a proper American education.  Cataleya will have none of it; only wishing to be responsible for the deaths of the murderers who destroyed her family, she implores Emilio to train her to kill.  A deal is struck and as the years pass, the uncle trains his niece in all aspects of mercenary work.  Devoting her life to her goal, taking lovers she can easily dispose of -- so to speak -- and giving none of herself to anyone.  Cataleya will not give up the hunt for her parents’ killers and sets about making them come to her by leaving a calling card of the rare Colombian lily she is named for on each of her victims.  Her plan works too well and soon both the FBI and the drug mob are on her trail and Cataleya finds out the hard way that revenge isn’t necessarily the best dish served hot or cold.

Completely wrapped in B-movie trappings from its clichéd script and implausible scenarios, the best thing Colombiana has going for it is the lovely Ms. Saldana.  Her Cataleya is a ghost in her own life, unable to find true joy while set on this mission of the destruction of her enemies and probably herself.  We’re robbed of the origin story thrill of watching her become this Uzi-toting, explosives and martial art expert with a thing for escape routes and exotic botany.  There’s simply nothing Cataleya can’t do and it just becomes one action set piece after another, aside from the intelligence of Saldana’s reactions.  She’s completely believable sliding through a prison air ducts in the afore-mentioned catsuit and much less so having to fire guns that would split her twigly little arms into splinters on the first shot.  The other actors in the film seem to have been left to their own devices as to how to play their respective roles.  As Uncle Emilio, Cliff Curtis’ “Colombian” accent wanders from indecipherable to Tony Montana and back again, while the acclaimed Spanish actor Jordi Mollà, playing the drug lord’s henchman knows he’s above this.  As Cataleya’s romantic interest, Michael Vartan is basically playing a dumber version of his “Vaughn” character from Alias, loving the mysterious chickie who’s not entirely truthful about herself.  Directed by the man I will always call Megatron, Olivier Megaton puts a lot less energy and ingenuity into this film than his previous effort, Transporter 3, though of course as in that film there are bit-players with badly-hidden French accents all around, but thankfully no actresses publicly urinating. There is absolutely no excuse for the hot mess that is the hand-to-hand combat scene between Cataleya and one of her assailants.  The only real fight of the film is choreographed by parkour founder David Belle {star of the great Banlieue 13} and it’s shot by a crackhead on too much caffeine.  Everything I hate about bad action cinematography is right here in this three minute scene, which features a perfectly brutal-looking battle ruined by extreme shakycam.  It’s infuriating.  That scene is the worst in a film that never quite clicks; never gaining much by way of character development (though Saldana cries prettily when obligated) and missing those crowd-pleasing sequences of Cataleya becoming the weapon that she is.  Instead she’s just written as a device to get to the next not-particularly thrilling action sequence.  While not enough to spend good ticket money on, it’s only Zoe Saldana’s performance, so much better than this film deserves, that makes Colombiana worth watching at all.

I wonder if it’s too late to cast her as Catwoman?

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Aug. 26th, 2011

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Sony Pictures)

 

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