Movie Review: Columbiana

It has been over twenty years since Luc Besson, wrote and directed his landmark film “Le Femme Nikita” which introduced us to a new world of espionage.

A young woman is recruited into a secret organization as an assassin. She is blackmailed because of her criminal record it was either this or a life in prison.

Nikita grows up, falls in love and turns the tables on her handlers. The French film spawned a remake in 1993 and two TV series.

Besson’s partner on this script is the legendary Robert Mark Kamen, who has wrote all the “Karate Kid” films, all the “Transporter” films, The Fifth Element and both Taken films.

So you would think that a writing team of this magnitude would deliver an amazing script. Unfortunately, no.

Here is what they came up with. A young girl named Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg) watches as her parents are gunned down by a vicious drug kingpin’s henchmen in Bogota, Columbia. She escapes their clutches and finds her uncle (Cliff Curtis) in Miami who gives her shelter and raises her as his own.

Fifteen years later, Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) is now a master assassin and is leaving a trail of bad men in her wake trying to get the attention of the kingpin.

Finally it works and the shit hits the fan just as Cataleya starts to have feelings for her neighbor (Michael Vartan).

Can Cataleya finally deliver vengeance upon the kingpin? What will happen to the love of her life? Can Zoe Saldana look any hotter holding a gun?

The movie is directed by Olivier Megaton who directed Transporter 3 and is now directing the Taken sequel. Megaton seems to be channeling Tony Scott when he concocted the look of the film.

The color palette and how this film feels is unreal. It reminds of the Transporter except with the tone and colors of 2004’s Man on Fire. It is super rich.

The pacing and action sequences are a lot of fun but when it comes down to it the script and very sloppy editing is the problem here.

Case in point:

Uncle: You are very talented. You want to be an artist?
Cataleya, age 10: I used to want to be Xena: Warrior Princess.
Uncle: And now?
Cataleya, age 10: I want to be a killer. Can you help?
Uncle: Sure.

Seriously that was written by two of the best action writers in the business?

That feels like that it was ripped right out that horrid 1987 film “Programmed to Kill” starring Sandahl Bergman.

Have we learned nothing when it comes to action films starring women? I thought smart films like Nikita would have prepped Besson for this.

Zoe Saldana does a wonderful job with her character. She has shown some action muscles playing Neytiri in Avatar and playing a rogue agent in the very underrated “The Losers”. Here she is able to let her action prowess shine and I have to tell you it is quite the sight. The showdown between Saldana and Jordi Molla in that bathroom is definitely the best scene in the film. If it wasn’t for this script, this film could have been a game changer for Saldana. She’s come a long way from one of Britney Spears’s best friends in 2002’s Crossroads.

Another performance worth mentioning is Amandla Stenberg does a great job as young Cataleya. The opening chase sequence and how she turns the innocence of the character into something that resembles Zoe grown up is a lot of fun.

This is a good movie to PVR or VOD but beyond that unless you love Zoe Saldana, I’d skip it.

2.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

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