Monday, November 21, 2011

Colombiana ***

Director: Olivier Megaton
Cast: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Mollà, Lennie James
Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis, Beto Benites, Callum Blue, Max Martini

For all its use of cliché, Hispanic stereotypes and abuse of style over substance, Colombiana is one of the most exciting action movies to have come out in a while. From its politically incorrect title we are reminded that once we enter its world, we need to adjust ourselves to its rules. Rules which, for better or for worse, have been filtered through the mind of that action visionary Luc Besson.
His world is one populated with fantastic heroines, deliciously decadent drama and an overall worshiping of style in the face of substance. Besson, who co-wrote the screenplay with Robert Mark Kamen, takes us to a hyperviolent version of Colombia where the young Cataleya (played as a child by the pitch perfect Amandla Stenberg) witnesses how a bunch of gangsters led by the ruthless Marco (Jordi Mollà) murder her parents.
She swears she will kill him and his evil boss Don Luis (Benites) - who needs a last name when you're evil and Hispanic? - before she stabs him, imprinting him with one of those eternal scars so cherished by villains the world over.
Cata escapes to America where she has her uncle Emilio (Curtis) train her to become a hitwoman. When the little girl morphs into the gorgeous Zoe Saldana, the rest of the movie devotes itself to have her seduce us with her beauty, her outstanding criminal skills and her thirst for revenge.
All of the setpieces are done with such mastery of form and suspense that you could literally watch Saldana perform outlandish stunt after stunt in the name of kick-ass joy.
The screenplay is laden with incongruous details and a million different arguments could be made about hos it reduces being Hispanic to guns and Christ, yet despite all of its shortcomings the film is so in love with its narrow world view that you have no choice but to understand it should only be seen as fantasy, hell it plays out like a comedy in some occasions.
Saldana brings such strength and personality to Cataleya, that you develop a crush on her courage and of course her figure (the camera can never get enough of her). A film like Colombiana which moves seamlessly between action and high camp works best because in its disaffected, sometimes irresponsible, use of cliché it forces us to look beneath the surface.
Is it OK for example to decide that Cataleya is a heroine? is her desire for revenge something admirable or does it in fact make her as evil as those she hates?
Saldana succumbs to this inner hunger with sensual ferocity and we never catch her doubting her character's motivations. She is who she is and she might not always understand herself but she is a woman with a plan. Colombiana is the kind of entertainment that requests you turn off the thinking switch upon entering the theater but it provides you with such primal pleasures that you can't help but feel like its accomplice once it's over. For better or for worse, you fall under its spell.


Candice Frederick said...

agreed. while not a perfect movie, it's a perfect popcorn movie.

Rodney said...

Zoe Saldanaaaaaaahhhh oh man, I can't wait for this to come to BluRay!

Great review, Jose. I admit I've heard/read some reviews on this which aren't entirely positive, but the trailer had me at hello. I'm gonna see this.