Monday, October 03, 2011


Have Gun Will Blast A Hole

I've mentioned more than once that the Luc Besson founded Europa Corp of films are churning out quality action thrillers like how Milkyway in the East have been doing of late, and with its offerings like Taken, From Paris with Love, and 22 Bullets, I was looking forward to Colombiana, especially since it has a female protagonist to begin with so there's a good break from the usual machismo, and it's set in the USA rather than the usual European jet-setting locations. But the film, written by Robert Mark Kamen and Luc Besson himself, and directed by Olivier Megaton who helmed Transporter 3, was a little bit lacklustre in its final product, which is most unfortunate.

The fault was at its core story, where a young girl escaped sure death thanks to her parent's tips and training, and is off from Colombia on her own wits and ability to live a new life in the USA under the auspices of a trusted family aide (Cliff Curtis). There she grows up, receives an education, forces her guardian to perfect her foundational skills in assassination, and is off to perform hit jobs to supplement the family income. During her hits she conjures up calling cards in arrogance in order to lure her enemies out, but as they say, if you play with fire, you'll get burnt, and fire burns without discrimination. Which of course led to the expected big bang finale.

Wait a minute, couldn't Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) use the resources at her disposal to track down her enemies, and then finish them all off in one fell swoop since she's quite the bad ass we've come to see through the various establishing scenes, such as a very elaborate jailhouse hit job that saw her slink around like a Catwoman to showcase both her stealth and physicality? The only excuse I can cook up on behalf of the filmmakers is that she needed to carry out hit jobs in order to make loads of money, to afford her all the wonderful toys from nasty vehicles to weapons of all shape and sizes that it will put many cinematic action heroes to shame. Otherwise, it simply made no sense to expose herself, and in that also to have a romantic relationship she knows will lead to nowhere for the secrets she's hiding, only to use her partner for sex, and put herself out there under her enemy's radar when she should have lied low and hit them with the element of complete surprise.

In any case, if you're to take the story at face value, then Zoe Saldana does make an attractive, effective action heroine which is rare these days since there are less than a handful who can balance graceful poise with the physical demands of a role like this one. It's a return to La Femme Nikita for Besson and perhaps having to dabble with a make-believe grown up Mathilda that never got made (and hopefully not too), except that this film got let down by weak plot development, criminal even when it cannot make much sense even if you're stretching believability a little for an action flick, despite the usual premise set up as motivation for its protagonist in a typical tale of vengeance of the highest order. There are excesses in the storyline that just screams at you, when you realize logic would mean having to jump right into the final act, because it can and does make sense.

The villains are shadowy goons without personality nor posing any real menace, except for their modus operandi which is to eradicate one's family, presenting very little real and present danger, and many goons, some 20+ of them being compressed into a black and white montage, being nothing other than fodder for Cataleya to empty lead into. While Saldana definitely put in a lot of work to become believable as the slinky assassin, somehow she got upstaged by Amandla Stenberg who played the younger kid version of the same character, having an entire, impressive escape scene in the first act being the highlight of this film that will give Hanna a run for her money, in my opinion. It would have been the huge fight in the toilet with Jordi Molia who plays the muscleman Marco, if not for the artificial speeding up of the moment to cheapen the effort put in.

I guess coming up with a lemon is part and parcel for a production house, where everything cannot possibly end up turning into gold. Then there's The Lady which is fast proving to become a darling at festivals and expected to score at upcoming awards, so perhaps it's of a different nature for Besson now to put aside heroines who do battle with guns, for those who do so with their minds to win over hearts. And that's clearly not what Colombiana is delivering.

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