‘Colombiana’ offers perfectly satisfactory escapism

September 5, 2011
Zoe Saldana in "Colombiana." SOURCE TRISTAR PICTURES

Considering there were maybe five theaters opened on the East Coast last weekend, what with everyone’s least favorite summer tourist - Irene - partying it up, whatever modest offerings there were in the late-summer flicks were destined to tank.

Top of the trio of new releases squeaking into theaters was “Colombiana,” a rather generic female-driven assassination thriller from producer Luc Besson. And though there was nothing immanently distinguishable about the film, there are far worse excuses to get star Zoe Saldana to squeeze into spandex and knock off bad guys for a couple hours.

She plays Cataleya Restrepo, a contract killer who has avowed to exact revenge on the men responsible for her father’s murder when she was but a young lass in Bogata. And while there may be little you have not seen before in such a film, it was written and produced by a filmmaker whose signature in the genre garners a certain level of respect.

Besson has handed audiences perhaps two of the most notable female-driven entries into the genre — “The Professional,” starring a young Natalie Portman, and “La Femme Nikita,” which has spawned a remake and two television series. It should also be noted that he directed the much-loved “Fifth Element,” also powered by a strong, spry and slinky leading lady (Milla Jovovich).

He has since launched his own production company, EuropaCorp, which has specialized in films with low budgets and high bullet and body counts (“The Transporter” and “District B13” series, “From Paris With Love,” and “Taken”).

“Colombiana” is the latest model off the assembly line, with many of the same features as the others (parkour action sequences, slow-motion gunplay), and even while it is familiar, it is hardly boring. There are vague similarities with it and “The Professional,” (allowing us to envision if Portman’s character had grown up and taken up the trade of killing for hire) and “Nikita,” but the level of quality varies greatly. “The Professional” was far more intimate and meditative, whereas “Colombiana” is made with more commercial-minded interests.

In fact, this year’s earlier release, “Hannah,” carried far more similarities to “Professional,” with “Colombiana” desiring to deliver more on the action to deliver more on the action front. What this film does have as an advantage is its wiry, wily lead, Saldana. She squeezes her svelte frame into and out of many a precarious situation, and handles the physicality like a pro. The other actors in the film are recognizable, if not notable. Michael Vartan ( best known as Michael Vaughn in TV’s “Alias”) pops up as a love interest, but provides little else to the story or action.

“Colombiana” offers perfectly satisfactory escapism for those knowing what they want out of it going in - slight plot, heavy action and an alluringly dangerous star. And while she could not defeat her nemesis Irene to earn more than second place at the box office, I would much rather pass the time watching Saldana than wind -blown weather reporters any day.

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