Hollywood loves sequels. However, for every Crazed Torture Porn Next Higher Number and Formula Katherine Heigl Rom-Com 2011 we get, there are plenty that we don't get. Where's Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League? More importantly, where is Matilda: The Professional in which a grown-up Natalie Portman reprises her debut role as a grown-up hit woman? Every so often, you'll hear teases of rumors that Natalie and writer-director Luc Besson would reteam, but nothing comes of it. Until now. Sort of.
In spots, Columbiana has imagery and themes which reminded me of Besson's Léon (bka The Professional) and his role as producer and co-writer are surely relevant, but it simply doesn't add up to tell a a consistent tale of hot babe murder and revenge.
Opening in 1992, we meet young Cataleya, a 10-year-old girl whose father is involved with a Columbian crime kingpin. He's leaving the boss' service and it seems amicable, but the father knows the boss will send people to kill him and he's right. He gives a SD card to her and is then promptly murdered with her mother. A bad guy tries to get it from her, but she stabs him and takes off in a parkour-style chase (ripped off from Casino Royale and Besson's District B-13), making her way to the American Embassy and safety in the USA with her uncle.
We then jump ahead 15 years (which makes no sense because that would be 2007 and she's been on the warpath for four years, it's revealed) when she crashes her car into a cop car and stumbles out looking like Halle Berry's crackhead in Jungle Fever. They toss her in jail and she proceeds to sneak through the jail to kill an associate of the crime lord's who is conveniently being held overnight in another area. How does she know all this? How come everything works out flawlessly? Just 'cause.
Her calling card left at the scene of her hits has a diligent FBI agent on her tail (a very good Lennie James) and eventually the kingpin realizes who's after him, so he sends minions to kill those close to her and she's got an artist guy who she goes and shags before leaving and he knows nothing much about this hot girl - to be fair, if Zoe Saldana showed up at my place looking for nothing but sex, I'm not gonna complain about not knowing her real name - and then there's um something and it gets slow and.....whatever.
Luc Besson is an assembly line for these action movies and it's really wearing thin. This is the same writing team and director (the awesomely-named Olivier Megaton) behind the franchise-killing Transporter 3 and while the ads tout that they wrote the badass Taken, the problem Columbiana suffers from is Megaton's weak pacing during the non-action scenes. Characters are tissue-thin caricatures and while it's a slight change-up to make your lead oblivious to the collateral damage she causes, there's not enough depth to get worked up over it.
Zoe Saldana is a hottie, but she's too thin to be credible as an ass-kicker. There are a few stylish shots and a handful of semi-interesting ideas, but it's just all done too half-assed and disinterestedly to really recommend things. Megaton's simply not visually innovative enough to grant a pass to the storytelling weakness in his game (he's no McG) and with a lackluster cut-and-paste script, there's even less for him to work with.
I like revenge movies. I love hot kickass babes with guns. This movie was starting off with an 8 before the lights went down and it just shed score all the way down. Pity. (Zoe, call me!)
Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.