Movie review: Colombiana

My husband and I attended a pre-screening event last night for the new movie, “Colombiana”, which opens wide today.

I discuss the plot and you may or may not consider some elements in this review spoilers. You are warned.

The movie was a mix of predictability and unpredictability.

In many ways, you know the whole plot before the opening shot. It is a standard revenge-action movie.

A young Colombian girl named Catalaya (after the orchid which only grows in Colombia) is orphaned and must make her way to safety. When she grows up, her life is entirely devoted to revenge and cool outfits.

Where this movie is unexpected is that when you expect this girl to hide, she sits and waits. When you expect her to cry, she fights.

She grows up and plots her revenge from her hipster Fortress of Solitude. She both keeps her hand in at killing and tries to send a message to her intended target, by being a contract killer.

The FBI are tracking her as a serial murderer know as the “Tag Killer” because she tags each victim with their crime and a lipstick drawing of the Catalaya orchid.

You see her kill a (guilty) prisoner in his high-security cell and feed a Bernie Madoff-type thief to his pet sharks.

And after a hard day of killing, there’s nothing Catalaya likes to do better than to return home, strip off, do a little sexy-dance around her empty apartment, take a shower and then spend a full minute eating a lollipop. Just like Pacino in Scarface!

There are a few call-backs to Scarface in this movie, as well as the Lethal Weapon franchise. When she visits the FBI agent tracking her, you can almost hear him say that he’s “too old for this”…stuff.

The first half of the movie, after a frantic opening chase through Bogotá, is quiet and thoughtful compared to the second half. The audience in the theater with me really perked up for the second half when a lot more things exploded.

I liked the supporting cast. Michael Vartan was underutilized as the booty call boyfriend who wants to talk about feelings. It’s okay, ‘cause he’s an artist.

Lennie James is great, as always, as the FBI agent. He’s a talented English actor I recognize from the television shows Jericho and The Walking Dead. My only problem with his American accent is that he replaces all the R’s with W’s and calls it a day. Also notice him directing the SWAT team to search the “boot” of every car in the garage. Twice!

Catalaya’s main target is Don Luis, the cartel leader her father worked for (as a killer), but you can tell the real target is Marco, played by the fabulous Spanish actor, Jordi Mollà. Marco was a friend to her parents and was there when they were killed, so he has it coming as much as the Big Boss does.

Catalaya and Marco have an extended hand-to-hand fight scene in a mansion bathroom that is the highlight of the movie. The scene is well done and exciting. It’s reminiscent of the fights in the Bourne films and the Liam Neeson movie, Taken, which was made by the same creative team as Colombiana.

Once Marco is dispatched (hardly a spoiler as you can see from the trailer), taking care of Don Luis seems like an amusing afterthought.

There are several times in the movie when characters make an emotional little speech. Afterward you will think, “Well, he or she can die now” and you will never be wrong.

Catalaya is much like The Man With No Name in the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns of the 60’s. It’s hard to get attached or care too much about a person willing to kill 23 people (despite their guilt) just to send a message to another person. The FBI has been tracking her as a serial killer. And they are kind of right.

The swearing is limited to the PG-13-approved single usage of the “F-word”.

The sex scenes are the mostly eye-rolling and insane hair caressing. If my husband touched my hair that much, I’d think he had a fetish.

Fifty or so people are killed during the movie, but it is in the European, mostly-bloodless style. Back in the 80’s there would have been a lot more splatter in an action movie like this.

Thankfully, Catalaya abstains from post-mortem one-liners. But feel free to add some in your own head throughout the movie. When she is standing on a balcony in the mansion and raining bullets down on the cartel henchmen, I defy you not to think “Say hello to my little friend”.

Catalaya is stripped down and put in a bath, shower or pool as much as possible. And as she should be, Zoe Saldana is lovely and does as much as she can with the role.

If she were plain or fat you would have a more difficult time empathizing with an empty shell who has no future after the revenge is over. The ending tries to be as upbeat as possible, but what is she supposed to do now, drive a minivan and blog?

The 7-year-old girl in the theater told her granny she like the movie very much, but I would save this movie for kids further into double digits. The message on revenge is a little twisted and adult for the elementary school set.

Three out of five. Decent in the theater if you like this genre, otherwise save it for Redbox.

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