“Colombiana” (2011)

Zoe-as-Columbiana-zoe-saldana-17054532-450-307

★★★½☆

I have kind of a hard time giving this film only 3.5 stars. It’s well made, well acted, and well directed. It’s kind of an update of the Raquel Welch film, “Hannie Caulder,” but without the depth. Given that Luc Besson co-wrote this film, it’s kind of surprising that it fell short in this way.

Zoe Saldana does a great job as the heroine, a little girl in Bogata who grows up and then seeks revenge years later on the men who killed her parents. She looks great in this movie and handles the action scenes well. Her thin frame isn’t something viewers are used to seeing in this kind of role – people in the “assassin” role are usually beefed up in kind of a para-military way.

The problems with this movie start early, after Cataleya (Saldana) gets to Chicago and tells her uncle (who is a killer) that she wants to be a killer too, in a rather sociopathic tone. Rather than spend a little while on the evolution of her skills, they just jump ahead 15 years and she’s already in the middle of killing off the men responsible (or in any way involved) with her parent’s death.

Oh. And she has a boyfriend. And artist, no less. They don’t spend a moment on how they met, the courtship, nothing that would really give her any humanity. The FBI and CIA are in the mix as well – one agency is “good” the other is not. The plot is well done, how she marks her targets with a drawing of a flower in order to draw out the leader of the bad guys – the one she’s really after but who is being hidden by the CIA.

There isn’t much humor in this film, it’s all pretty grim. But there is one subtle moment of levity. Towards the end when the bad guys are laying out their defenses, the leader says that “she is like the mist under your door, she will never attack straight on …” – and then Saldana fires an RPG into the house. Nice.

The whole thing ends with everyone dead, and she has to leave town and her boyfriend – and Johnny Cash’s “The Hurt” is playing in the background. OK. Like when did the lead character develop feelings? You can’t play that card if there was no real character development in the film.

This movie should have been at least twenty minutes longer to give Saldana’s character some depth and maybe even a little warmth. She’s hot and all, but comes across as a more or less a permanently damaged human being – which may be accurate but it’s not a very good ending.

Regardless of these flaws, this is one of the better summer movies. If I was grading it purely on “was it fun to watch?” I’d give it 4 stars or more. I did enjoy the movie, and you will too.