[REVIEW] Can Colombiana Deliver?

Review of Colombiana by Migual Guadalupe
Colombiana (MPAA Rating: PG-13)
Cast: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Mollà, Lennie James, Amandla Stenberg, Cliff Curtis
Director: Oliviera Megaton

Before even seeing this film, you can see the Hollywood influences – La Femme NikitaThe Professional, Kill Bill,  even Desperado comes to mind. The premise is simple enough – a young girl sees her parents killed by villainous thugs and spends her formative years seeking revenge while trying to hold on to her humanity.

Zoe Saldaña remixes a version of Natalie Portman’s Mathilda into the revenge focused Cataleya. She moves from cold blooded killer to homesick little girl and back again, taking you on her emotional journey with her eyes, which capture your attention throughout the movie. (She’s very good at that – see Avatar.) Her fighting moves prove she can hang with the leading ladies of action. The final fight scene surprised me quite a few times with the way she gets the upper hand. She also looks great in a catsuit.

While our leading lady shines, there are a ton of gaping holes in this movie. How exactly does the uncle, who seems to be  just a street thug, train her to be a martial arts expert and flawless assassin? How did she meet her paramour?  What really was on that disk?

Maybe the director felt we are not meant to know these things, or that we don’t have the patience or intellectual capacity to sit through the explanations, but the lack of these and other plot points leave the audience hanging and never fully invested in the story. Also, some of the characters, like the crooked CIA guy, the dedicated FBI agent, and the church-going grandma, were completely two-dimensional and formulaic. Revenge movies like Kill Bill and Desperado got to be classics because they spent time developing how all the characters connected. Otherwise, these kind of movies turn into a bunch of people in an elevator, going in the same direction, avoiding eye contact.

There is, of course, a bit of controversy about this movie due of it’s apparent bad image of Colombia and the use of non-Colombians to play the major roles.  There is some credence to this,  because while Zoe understands that you can play a South American without having a Tony Montana accent,very few of the other actors seem to follow her lead. Case in point was the guy from The Last Airbender as her Colombian uncle.  Points for trying, but man, that was painful to listen to. Now, I don’t believe that only Latinos should play Latinos, or that you have to be of the country to play the character, but it should at least be believable. If you can’t do a good accent, go Tom Cruise in Valkerie, and don’t have one. That being said, the dust up regarding the movie giving a bad image of Colombia may be a bit of an overreaction. The movie makers should have used a different title and dropped the opening montage of Colombian landscapes and narco-war scenes because frankly, the movie isn’t about Colombia at all –  it takes place in the US. If anything, the people of Chicago should have a bigger beef.  If we are going to have a new, Latino Hollywood action hero, woman vs Colombian cartel bosses makes for an exciting story line. And you must give credit to the movie for picking Zoe and for making the character have an AfroLatino mom. Colombia is a beautiful country, but never producing a movie involving the cartel era would be like never producing a movie in the US about the Al Capone days of prohibition. Its a dramatic part of a country’s past, and that drama makes for good movies.

Colombiana is a good stepping stone for Zoe, who moves ever closer to main-stream Hollywood and gets the action movie cred she needs. Bravo for her. But our European movie makers were less than dedicated in developing the plot and rounding out the supporting cast. That lack of effort diminished what could have been a more excellent movie, and needlessly exposed it to politically correct criticism.  So, while the ride is quite bumpy, you may still like the journey, if only to see Zoe high kick on camera.

Your Daddy Time: Worth It or Wasted?  This will probably run well on cable, so unless you are a big Zoe fan, save it for the couch. Wasted. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Worth It/Wasted Rating System is for dads who need to know one thing- Is this movie WORTH IT to:

* Pack up the kids, bags, etc and trek to the theater – or
* Find a babysitter so Dad can have a date night – or
* Cash in brownie points with the Mrs. so he can go with his buddies

If it doesn’t fit these simple criteria, the movie gets the WASTED rating, which means – don’t waste the precious time you have, wait for video/cable when you can squeeze it between chores, work and sleep.

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