Sony // 2011 // 111 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // December 26th, 2011
If you don't give her what she wants, she'll redecorate your office...with you.
Few names better evoke the idea of high-octane action than Luc Besson. Whether as a director, a writer, or a producer, there is a certain promise of quality that comes with the name. Colombiana, written and produced by Besson and directed by Olivier Megaton (Red Siren), doesn't exactly disappoint in that way, but after all these years, it appears that Monsieur Besson may be running short on original ideas.
After her parents a murdered in front of her by Colombian cartel assassins, young Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg) escapes to America and to Chicago to find her uncle, a killer himself. Vowing revenge, she learns his trade and, fifteen years later (now played by Zoe Saldana, Avatar), she is ready to exact revenge on the killers. Systematically executing everybody associated with the villainous Don Luis (Beto Benites, Postcards from Leningrad), she has finally gotten his attention, but also the attention of the FBI, who intends to stop her before she completes her mission of vengeance.
The plotting of Colombiana is unfortunately simple. The first act is pulled straight from Leon: The Professional and the rest is basically just another version of La Femme Nikita. That complete unoriginality is really the sinking point of the film and the rest, while occasionally admirable, must struggle mightily to overcome the lack of creativity. At some points, it does, but mostly it can't manage to make up for the repetition, at least for long time fans of Besson's work.
Because of all Besson's experience writing these stories, though, the plot execution is efficient and effective, with few wasted moments. Even the predictable romantic subplot has relevance to how the film plays out. There are a few very exciting set pieces, especially the opening sequence with the thugs chasing the young Cataleya through the neighborhood, which makes for a very strong start to the film. There aren't any real surprises; when you see something that looks like it could be used for an action scene, it probably will be, but everything is fairly well directed by Megaton. The action isn't cut together too quickly to understand what's going on, but it's fast enough to maintain the excitement. The big finale is a heavy weapons extravaganza that I really enjoyed, if only for how loud and explosive it is. There may be nothing new in Colombiana, but it works pretty well for what it tries to do.
The best part of the film is the performances, which are quite good for an action film. People might complain that Zoe Saldana doesn't look the part of a steeled assassin, but she does a really good job in the role. She may not have giant muscles and a thick neck, but the look in her eyes makes me believe in her. To the point of Saldana's believability, as well, who actually looks for realism when it comes to action films? Is it any more realistic to have Rambo single-handedly take down an entire army with his gun of infinite ammunition? But since Stallone was sweaty with big muscles, I guess that's somehow better. I find the argument ridiculous; if she performs the role well, which she does, I'm perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief about her real life ass-kicking abilities. The rest of the performances are pretty good as well. Amandla Stenberg does very well in her limited time onscreen and lead henchman Jordi Mollô is a perfectly charismatic villain. Most everyone does fine in their roles and, were it not for a story that I've watched many times over the years, their work would have left me with a very positive feeling about the film.
Sony delivers an adequate DVD for Colombiana, but one that could be considerably better. The image, in general, is very clear, but not as detailed as I had hoped. The black levels are a little murky, though the colors are fairly deep. In the heaviest action scenes, whether it's a result of the editing or the transfer, the image gets somewhat jumpy. Overall, it's an inconsistent image that is very good at its best, but below average at times. The surround sound mix is a little better, though still not perfect. It is mixed well and it's all perfectly clear, but there's a minimum of action in the back channels. The extras are merely two featurettes, one on the making of the entire feature and the other on the journey of Cataleya from child to assassin. They're fine on their own, but given that nearly the entire interview with Amandla Stenberg in the second featurette is reused wholesale in the first makes them redundant. It's clear that Sony spent most of their energy toward the film's release on the Blu-ray disc, which Judge Sullivan rightly praises, and slow technology adopters have been left with the dregs.
If you've never seen a Luc Besson production before, Colombiana will likely play as the exciting thrill ride it is intended to be. After all these years following the same template, however, the repetition keeps it from being as exciting or intense as it could have been. The performances are good, though, and there are a few really sharp action sequences that help to make it a decent way to pass a couple of hours.
Review content copyright © 2011 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, Descriptive)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Official Site