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Friday, August 26, 2011

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Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) escapes through a ventilation system in Colombiana.

0.5 Stars

With names like Luc Besson and Zoe Saldana attached to an action movie, it seems reasonable to expect something at least fun and entertaining. After all, these folks were involved in films like Avatar, Star Trek, Taken, The Transporter, and The Fifth Element, among others. The latest for each is Colombiana, and it's as inept a movie as I've seen in a long time. The film does virtually nothing right. The acting is wooden, the writing is atrocious, and there's little action to be found, actually. We're supposed to care about this heroine, but everything about her story is clunky and unoriginal. I was jumping out of my skin during this movie, waiting for it to reach it's silly but totally predictable conclusion. I hated it, and beg you not to waste your money on it.

Cataleya (Saldana) is a determined assassin traveling across the country in search of the men who destroyed her childhood. At the age of nine, Cataleya's parents were murdered right in front of her by a group of Colombian gangsters, and though she managed to escape, she carries the feelings of that day with her always. After the murders, Cataleya manages to make it to Chicago, where her uncle (Cliff Curtis) takes her in and trains her to kill. As she gets older, her uncle sends her off to kill evil men, and she does so in a way that will send a message to her parents' killers. But it's not until the FBI releases that information to the press that she starts to attract attention. As she balances her wishes for a normal life with her professional one, the authorities and ultimate targets both attempt to track her down.

Screenwriters Besson and Robert Mark Kamen take every cliche you've ever seen in a film like this and jumble them together in such an awkward way that you can never really feel totally enveloped in Cataleya or her tragedy. This is a crucial element of the film—the reason we can justify her actions. But none of it ever comes together. The romance elements never mesh with the revenge thriller aspects. There are extremely long exposition scenes that will bore you to tears. Then there's the conclusion which is rush and doesn't come through at all on the action front.

The film's first 20 minutes—which actually show the events that set Cataleya on this path—are a joke. The young actress who plays the nine-year-old Cataleya—Amanda Stenberg—is terrible. And the dialogue during this portion of the film is especially bad. We also have the privilege of watching a young girl pick through her own vomit, which is as enjoyable as it sounds. When Saldana enters the films, things pick up a bit, but they never really get going—certainly not enough to overcome the way the film starts.

Stenberg doesn't give the film's only bad performance. Saldana is one-dimensional in a role that demands complexity. Cliff Curtis' character is underdeveloped, and his relationship with Cataleya is never consistent. Michael Vartan (as the boyfriend), Jordi Molla (as a bad guy), and Lennie James (as an FBI agent) are all good enough, but they do little to bring their characters out of the background.

The action doesn't even come through in Colombiana. There's one scene that's relatively pulse-pounding, but for the most part, the action is secondary and typical. There's nothing to the film in general that hasn't been done better a million times before. It's a failure on every single level—the worst film I've seen this year by a long shot. I can't say I had high expectations for it, but I never thought it would be this bad.


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