Colombiana – 2011
Directed by Olivier Megaton
Starring Zoë Saldana, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis, Lennie James, Callum Blue, Jordi Mollà
Written by Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
When one considers that Luc Besson and prolific screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen first worked together on the movie, Leon: The Professional, it becomes increasingly obvious as to why Colombiana seems so familiar. Take in the fact that a few years ago, Luc Besson tapped Olivier Megaton to direct the sequel to Leon, to be called Mathilda, which later sank into development hell, the pieces fit together quite nicely. In one way, it is a shame the sequel never got made. Natalie Portman has not acted half as well in a movie since. It feels better when one considers that in changing the circumstances to the flower without “roots” from Little Italy in NYC to Bogata, Colombia gives one the chance to see that flower become Saldana, who can emote as well as well as carry out the physical stunts required for the role. Natalie would need a computerized (read: blue screen) version of herself to do as well. Then again, after Black Swan, one can’t be so sure she could even reach that level.
So, on one level, you can be thankful that they managed to get this original story through the vetting process and into a developed feature. The film is as eloquently thought out as any action feature this past year. It stars 2 of my favorite character actors in Cliff Curtis and Lennie James, and as mentioned before, Saldana is clearly up to the task. There are some tell-tale Besson trademarks: fate ripping your hopes and dreams away, wraith-like assassins, oversexed rich fat guys getting taken out by a hit, and magnificent escapes from living quarters in a high-rise, and masterminds getting theirs.
Some good steps removed from this film that keep us from having to view clichés normally associated in films of this nature. The firs of these is with her relationship with “painter” Danny (Vartan). By skipping the meet cute part of their relationship, the viewer actually gets a chance to feel like they are gaining some free time. The role of the Uncle, Emilio (Curtis) works early on. Really enjoyable is the forthright nature of James’ FBI Special Agent Ross, who plays it honestly, and free from pretense.
The end wraps up quickly, with a collection of scenes done before, but still feel organic here. This is partly due to the team of Besson, Kamen and Megaton, but Saldana should not be overlooked. The skill she employs here makes her at once lethal and vulnerable, and that is a tough combination to pull off. This was one of the key characteristics to Reno’s Leon, as well as the character of Mathilda. It’s one thing to have this on the page, but it is quite another to pull it off.
The movie is short, and the bad guys have no discernible menace. Gary Oldman’s Stansfield was incredibly over the top, while most of the guys in this tale I could not pick out of a line up, even if Gabrielle Union thinks lead henchman Jordi Mollà is the Spanish “Tom Cruise.”
One question I want to ask: Why is the movie called Colombiana? I know it starts in Colombia, but, with that logic, Die Hard could have been called Americana. How about going with Cataleya, instead. It would have made more sense, and perhaps made folks in Colombia a tad less concerned about stereotyping.
If one can divorce themselves from these curious, but inconsequential factors, Colombiana is a nice way to spend an hour and a half, and a good spiritual sequel to a classic film.
(***1/2 out of *****)