Columbiana – DVD Review

From writer/producer Luc Besson, Columbiana feels a lot like a regurgitation of Besson’s 1994 film Leon: The Professional – which was a much better movie.

The Professional gave us Natalie Portman, and Columbiana gives us Amandla Stenberg. Although only on screen for a few minutes, she is probably the star to watch in this mess of a movie, and set to break big as Rue in The Hunger Games. In this movie, she plays the child Cataleya who watches as her parents are killed in front of her in her native Columbia.

Directed by Olivier Megaton, the film is crafted as a showcase for Zoe Saldana (Avatar and Star Trek) as the sexy and violent grown-up version of Cataleya. Other than Stenberg (who gave a very impressive dead-panned performance for a child dealing with such an intense subject) and Saldana, the only other star power that drives this movie is played by Cliff Curtis.

The talented actor plays Cataleya’s uncle who lives in the states who takes her under his wing after the deaths of her parents. Curtis was also in a short lived series, Trauma, where I first noticed him. He is a very engaging actor, very charismatic, but for a few scenes, his role is wasted in the movie.

The movie focuses on Cataleya’s plans to revenge her parents and the wrong done to them. But it becomes more about Cataleya and the wrong done to her and the revenge due to her, as she was forced to sit and watch her parents gunned down and taking their last breaths in front of her.

With her uncle’s help (he isn’t shy about working in the killing trade), she learns to kill, not the wrong way, but the right way. Which begs the question, is there a right way to kill? And the answer in this movie seems to be yes: don’t get caught.

However careful she is and however carefully Uncle Emilio has taught her, she goes rogue and begins her revenge without his blessing – which eventually leads to the FBI discovering her identity. Lennie James plays the investigator that follows her movements for years, only to discover he has been chasing a woman. Michael Vartan (Alias) plays the sometimes boyfriend who takes a picture of her that leads to her identity being compromised.

This movie is engrossing but so full of holes your brain will fall through them and never recover.

The child Cataleya, whose name is associated with an orchid flower, manages to get from Columbia to America in record time, even after running from the drug cartel there and then law enforcement in the United States. She manages to obtain a passport and makes it to Chicago to find her uncle and his family.

Yet that was pretty plausible considering the film continued to spiral more and more into the surreal. Her Uncle Emilio, in a fit of passion to teach her a lesson, shoots up a few cars at her school in the parent drop off line in broad daylight. Still, I continued to watch, as it, I thought, was a mesmerizing tale.

Looking like Catwoman, our young flawed and misguided heroine kills a bad man while he is in police custody, and she slips out unseen of the police station. Well, almost unseen, as they do have security cameras. But she mostly works in the air conditioning ducts in her tight, tight, very tight suit. And she did come in as a prostitute with a bad wig.

Did I mention the guns she has collected? One of them looks like it belongs on a helicopter and Arnold should show up and yell, “Get to the choppa!” It was also funny how she thought to store a giant rifle, but no pants since she is forced to run around the apartment building in panties and a shirt – not that she wears pants very often in the film anyway.

She rains her vengeance down upon the drug lord who has relocated to New Orleans with the CIA’s help (I know…that was really a bit of a stretch).

By the end of the movie, she is in full vigilante style and armed with so many weapons and grenades, she breaches the compound and takes them all out.  Then, in the true fashion of the movie, in which we are led to believe that she is always two steps ahead of us the audience, she knows which van the drug lord will take to make his own getaway. Did I mention she managed to obtain an armored vehicle for this operation?

While I was sucked in at the beginning and taken in by this tale of a child watching her parents die, the movie quickly lost any sense of reality based plot for me. The movie does move fast and the pace is never boring, but don’t except much out of the plot.

The DVD comes with a look at the making of the movie and the journey of its killer.

At its core, it is a revenge tale, and not a very well told one. This is one movie that requires minimal brain activity and at the end, even less emotional input. Besson’s Professional was much better I suggest to by-pass this movie and just watch his first adaption.

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