Colombiana is a revenge thriller directed by Olivier Megaton and written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Besson also co-wrote the 2008 hit Taken with Kamen, which has a vaguely similar revenge theme. And now Megaton is apparently directing a Taken sequel. So it makes sense that Colombiana was marketed towards fans of Taken. But whereas the earlier film, in which Liam Neeson seeks revenge against those who abducted his daughter, was no-nonsense, high tension fun, Colombiana is slack and ultimately quite boring.
The best reason to see it is for the lead performance by Zoë Saldana. One of the most vibrant actresses in Hollywood, Saldana was a bright spot in James Cameron’s Avatar and also filled Nichelle Nichols’ shoes admirably as Uhura in the 2009 Star Trek reboot. In Colombiana, Saldana portrays Cataleya Restrepo, a woman seeking to eliminate anyone connected with the murder of her parents. She witnessed their demise as a young child (played by Amandla Stenberg). Apparently her dad was involved in Colombia’s organized crime world. The young Cataleya does right by her deceased father when she delivers a computer chip to the authorities rather than the crime bosses. This noble act wins her a passport to America, where she will live with her uncle.
Though the movie spends way too much time with the young Cataleya, this first act sets up the main plot which follows the adult Cataleya as a hit woman. Under the tutelage of her uncle, she has become a skilled killer. Her boyfriend has no clue, as Cataleya keeps the true nature of her profession hidden. But that much killing can’t go unnoticed by law enforcement forever. The cops are convinced the work has been done by a man, which keeps them off Cataleya’s trail for a long spell. Of course, her ultimate goal is to avenge her parents.
Colombiana actually has more in common with another far superior film in Luc Besson’s filmography, Léon, aka The Professional. In that 1994 film, Natalie Portman plays a girl roughly the same age as Cataleya whose parents are also murdered. Despite her age, she takes up with an adult hitman and assists him with his work. Colombiana doesn’t stick with Cataleya the child, but rather tracks her adult life. It is only sporadically compelling, and even then thanks mainly to the magnetic work of Saldana. In the end, the movie is a misfire and fails to build much sympathy for Cataleya, who has freely chosen the path of a hired killer when she could’ve spent her life more productively.
The DVD of Colombiana boasts an unrated extended cut of the film. The theatrical cut is not included. The two making-of featurettes are actually considerably more substantial than expected. They convey more about the filmmaker’s intentions than the average promotional-based fluff piece. These are worth taking a look at for fans of Colombiana, though I doubt there are many who would claim to be.