The writing team behind the great thriller Taken brings us another out-for-revenge film with their latest collaboration, Colombiana. It’s being marketed as a non-stop action-thriller with a main character not letting anyone get in her way as she tries to complete her mission, and while that is what we get in part, it’s certainly not the whole film. In fact, it’s a very small part of the film, so if you were expecting a film in the same range as Taken, you may want to put those expectations aside as you’re not exactly going to get what’s being advertised.
The film starts off in Colombia in the early nineties where we meet young Cataleya (Amanda Stenberg) and her parents. Her father, who is in league with a local Don (Beto Benites), is murdered along with her mother at the Don’s order, but luckily Cataleya is able to escape to the local embassy with a computer chip of information. This is enough to get her sent to America where she seeks out her Uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis). Her uncle is also involved in some dirty business, but she doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, even at this very young age, she wants to get into the business of killing people. Her uncle reluctantly agrees to teach her as long as she goes to school first.
Fifteen years later, we find that Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) has indeed become a professional assassin who kills people for her uncle. With each of her latest missions, she has been drawing a Colombian orchid on each of the victims in the hopes of drawing out the man responsible for ordering the murder of her parents. This has also been getting the attention of a local police agent, Ross (Lennie James), who is determined to find whoever is committing these murders. Meanwhile, Cataleya tries to juggle both her relationship with her uncle, which is becoming tense because of the messages she’s leaving, and her boyfriend, Danny (Michael Vartan), who has no idea he’s in love with an assassin.
If that summary seemed to get really strange to you near the end, you’re not alone, as that’s exactly how the movie feels. On the one hand, it wants to be an action movie with a revenge plot, while on the other hand, it wants to deal with Cataleya’s personal life. However, these two parts of the film don’t feel like they belong in the same movie. In a superficial sense, it feels like it wants to be Taken and The American at the same time.
The film does have several good parts that stand out. When we first see the older Cataleya, we get to watch as she completes a complicated mission that involves her impersonating a drunken woman in order to get thrown into a jail inside a police station. It just so happens that her target is in the same station, so using her various skills, she finds her way to him and executes him.
While parts of the film like that were interesting, it ends up being filled with far too much superfluous sections, such as that of her relationship with her boyfriend. This actually only seems to have been written in so that the writers had a way of forcing certain events later on, basically to give the plot a little more sense of danger with the possibility of Cataleya getting caught.
The main reason these parts of the film feel superfluous is that they don’t help to advance the plot at all. After the first 15 minutes or so, it takes until about the last 15 minutes for the film to finally get back around to finishing the story it had set up. Because of this, a majority of the film feels like it’s spent building up to those last 15 minutes, even though it doesn’t really have much to do with what ends up happening.
One other thing that really stood out about Colombiana was its twisted sense of humor. Now, this is by no means a comedy, and yet, it had small jokes strewn throughout its runtime. Some of these were probably intentional, while others might not have been meant to be laughed at, but ended up being funny anyway. The best example of the intentional humor would be something like Cataleya randomly announcing her intention to become a killer and her Uncle’s seemingly quick consent. The latter can be exemplified by a chase scene involving young Cataleya being chased by “criminals” who were far too good at parkour to be taken very seriously.
Overall, Colombiana is not a bad movie, just one that needed to decide where its priorities were. Did the writers want it to be more action-filled or emotion-filled?That’s not to say that a balance couldn’t be struck, but because of the structure of this particular story, it didn’t come off as being balanced well enough. We’ve already seen that these writers, Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, can deliver an exceptional thriller when its purpose is made clear, but here they tried to do a little more, and that’s where the film begins to falter.
With a tighter story and structure, most of the film’s problems could have been easily fixed, resulting in a film that doesn’t feel like a build-up of superfluous events. In a film like this, we shouldn’t have time to get bored. We should be engaged in the protagonist’s mission from the start and feel the sense of urgency in completing it. Here, there’s just not much of a sense of urgency. Just like how there’s not really much of one in going to see the film.
Colombiana contains some thrilling scenes as well as an interesting sense of twisted humor, but there's not enough here to really keep us engaged.