Sadly, Besson did not direct this movie. He only produced and co-wrote (with Robert Mark Kamen) the flick, leaving the directorial reins to one Oliver Megaton.
I hate Olivier Megaton -- he is a terrible director. He tanked the Transporter and Taken franchises, and he almost kills this one as well. He offers a good lesson in the importance of shot choice, editing, pacing and basically every fundamental of continuity story-telling. So going into this, my expectations were low.
The opening sequences, featuring a young Catalyna (Amandla Stenberg) are the best part of the movie. In the space of ten minutes, she witnesses her parents murder, stabs a man through the hand, swears vengeance, does parkour and escapes to America where she demands her uncle teach her how to be 'a killer'.
In its blunt straightforwardness, it is one of the most unintentionally hilarious things I've seen in a long time. It's so insanely economical it reminded me of the similarly simple-minded Commando. Sadly, once the movie shifts to the modern day, the movie never quite reaches the same level of gleeful idiocy again.
The movie does boast some other chuckles, mostly around accents and props. Colombiana is filled to the brim with French actors doing their best attempts at American accents -- the actors playing the cops in the beginning are also burdened with attempting a southern twang. It's real bad. The best person doing an accent is Cliff Curtis as Colombiana's 'Latino' uncle, which shows you how low the bar is. The accents are about as good as the newspapers, which are the most fake props I've seen in a while. They look like something a 12 year old could mock up on their laptop. The set dressing on the whole feels the same way -- it's like watching an unfinished version of The Sims.
As you can expect, the action sequences are Megaton's bette noir, but some of them make it out relatively unscathed. The best is the jail assassination attempt; the worst is the final showdown, particularly the bathroom fight, which features Megaton's trademark over-cutting.
In its favour, the movie does feature one emotional beat that worked: As Catalyna/Colombiana's parents make their last stand against the villains, Megaton focuses on the young girl's traumatised face. It actually got to me. For a brief moment, Megaton restrains his normal instincts. Too bad he could not display the same tact with the rest of the film.
It helps that most of the key players are all good actors. Saldana is good, although she does not have a lot of room to give her character much of a personality -- aside from a scene where she celebrates a successful hit by dancing around her massive loft. She also sucks lollipops while cleaning her guns. Since this is an action movie and she's not a guy, we also get a scene where she has to escape her hideout without having time to change.
|Totally not gratuitous|
Curtis is really good as her uncle, although the role does not give him much to do. Michael Vartan from Alias shows up as her boyfriend. Really nothing more to say than that. The villains are completely interchangeable, and don't really do anything. They don't have a master plan beyond hiding.
On top of directorial incompetence, the whole film feels underwritten. If you told me Luc Besson wrote this movie on the back of a napkin, I would believe you. The villains exist to be shot, Colombiana exists to shoot them, and the other characters exist to pad the movie out to feature length. Most modern-day action movies suffer from being over-complicated; Colombiana feels the opposite.
It has the makings of a great drinking game, but ultimately Colombiana is a poor vehicle for the talented Saldana, here's hoping someone else finds her an action flick more worthy of her considerable talents.