Colombiana (2011)

Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but thanks to a sizzling Zoe Saldana, Luc Besson’s latest shoot-’em-up is a sure-fire scorcher. Teaming with the feisty femme of the moment, Besson has a writer/producer credit on Colombiana, but it’s quite clearly his bambino. Once envisioned as a sequel to Léon starring a grown-up Mathilda, but reworked into a Nikita-aping, assassin-on-a-mission vengeance flick, Colombiana combines both the best and worst of Besson.

The best? Well, in the wake of Angelina Jolie’s so-so Salt, Colombiana knows how to have a good time and get its hands grubby. Director Olivier Megaton’s mission statement is ‘Bourne with boobs’, and he very nearly hits that target. With its opening shot cradling an endless sea of favelas, not to mention Colombiana’s handful of dusty, dirty fist fights (choreographed by The Bourne Identity’s Alain Figlarz), Megaton’s film is a refined style-oozer that doesn’t beat around the bush.

A pacy but patchy opening introduces us to 10-year-old Cataleya, whose parents have just been shot dead. She escapes alive – but only just. Fifteen years later, Cataleya is working as an assassin for her gangster uncle, offing bad guys on his behalf while secretly planning to avenge her dead parents. Which is when Saldana makes her killer entrance, ploughing into a police car and giggling drunkenly when she’s arrested. As she’s thrown into the clink to sober up, Colombiana’s finest set piece unravels – a near-wordless jail assassination that shows us what Cataleya (and Saldana) is made of.

A wily, wiry waster, Saldana holds her own in a massively physical role – most impressively during a brutal final hour bathroom brawl that has her going 10 rounds with a guy twice her size. Shame, then, that Megaton chooses to fetishise her so much; popping Saldana in nipple-enhancing vests and having her suck on lollipops only works to trivialise our otherwise fierce and fearsome anti-heroine.

Because, yes, Colombiana is the kind of subtlety-free movie where guns are strapped under tables, gates are smashed open by rampaging trucks, and doors are blown up instead of kicked in. Megaton’s film would have done well to stick to the punchy, chat-free approach of its jail segment.

As dodgy dialogue pinched from the Big Book Of Crime Thriller Clichés is repeatedly stuffed down our throats (‘She’s the mist under the door, you won’t see her until it’s too late!”), it’s clear that Colombiana would’ve worked better as a sexy, sultry silent movie. With a bare bones story set out in a visually snappy way, the dialogue only serves to sour the dish.

Anticipation: A post-Avatar Zoe Saldana nabs her first mo-cap-free lead role and Besson’s producing? Where do we sign up? 4

Enjoyment: Saldana sizzles as a feisty fatal femme, making up for the duff dialogue. 3

In Retrospect:
Colombiana wants to be Bourne with boobs, but its connect-the-dots narrative and silted script means it can’t quite reach those bone-crunching heights. 3

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