Luc Besson’s fascination with female assassins continues but sadly has failed to evolve.
What began in 1990 with Nikita, and was followed in 1995 with Leon, sprints onwards with Colombiana, a third point to Besson’s exploration of female killers that asks the viewer to accept a great deal without offering any genuine sense of back story.
Tarantino favourite Zoe Saldana is Cataleya, daughter of a rising Central American criminale who vows revenge on the kingpin who orders daddy’s execution. Flash forward 15 years and she’s all grown up and carrying out hits for her guardian.
Yet she’s also steadily rubbing out the people close to the man she has sworn to kill. Thus Besson combines familiar elements of Nikita and Leon and presents Cataleya as the mature version of Matilda, the pre-teen wannabe who enjoys the patronage of Leon in that epic second film.
Sadly Colombiana has none of the depth of the earlier films, possibly because co-writer Besson (with Robert Mark Kamen) has passed directing duties to Olivier Megaton. Thus this is a fast-paced but empty actioner that owes much to its predecessors but never once understands what made them unique.
Saldana makes for a slinky, black-clad hitwoman – a slimmer, younger version of Halle Berry. She’s a feisty lass and emerges from a succession of setpiece sequences with nary a scratch. A fondness for using air ducts as escape routes helps.
One extended scene stands out, as a SWAT unit sweeps through Cataleya’s secret lair. And there’s a bone-crunching piece of intricately choreographed close combat in a bathroom. Yet while it’s impressively mounted and shot it has all been seen before, notably in the finale to Leon. Clearly Besson has begun cannibalising his own work.
Colombiana is presented as a milieu for a 21st century heroine – a Latino Angelina Jolie with a nod toward a distaff 007. “She’s like mist under a door,” whispers the premier villain at one point.
Quite. But no-one really talks like that. And if Besson and Megaton wanted to prevent this one sliding from quasi realism to all-out comic strip they should avoid letting their characters utter phrases like that.