If you know Luc Besson, you probably shouldn’t be too surprised by Colombiana. After all, the overwhelmingly okay film follows the general pattern laid out by many of his other films, wherein 1) an innocent hero is driven to violence by violence, 2) nearly everyone who is close to the hero is killed, 3) the villain always has an evil henchman, and 4) a chase scene with free-running in it is featured. Sure, that very well might be simplifying the picture and the celebrated French mogul’s approach to storytelling, yet Colombiana fits the mold. For the most part, the movie is a serviceable assassin thriller, with the dynamic Zoe Saldana showing off her figure as she outsmarts the good and bad guys hot on her heels when she’s not slinking around in panties or shooting enormous guns. Story-wise, there’s one monkey wrench of wonky motivation at play, but thankfully the production is pulled off with the right amount of French/Hollywood gloss so that it’s very easy to just sit back and accept it for the slightly dramatic action piece that it is.
Saldana plays Cataleya, who at a young age became the lone surviving family member of a Colombian crook after he two-timed his boss, Don Luis (Beto Benites). When the American government helps her escape the country, Cataleya is taken in by a family friend, Emilio (played by Cliff Curtis), who trains her to be a killer in the city of Chicago. Years later, the murderous orphan gets the word out to Luis that she is coming for him by drawing an orchid on the body of each perp that Emilio assigns her to kill, thus triggering the FBI and the agent in charge (Lennie James) to hunt her down.
Even just reading that synopsis, it’s evident that Catalya’s plan is so wrong-headed that it’s hard to believe she didn’t think that things would backfire on her adoptive family. Well, all right, it’s just a movie, but still… that just seems lazy -- as does writer/producer Besson rehashing scenes from both La Femme Nikita and Léon (almost blatantly so), which to director Olivier Megaton’s credit, is pulled off with relative restraint considering that his last film was the overly chaotic Transporter 3. The helmer does make the dumb move of cutting frame rates in the finale’s hand-to-hand action scenes, which is unfortunate since that style is nowhere to be seen up until that point. Some praise should go to Cliff Curtis, who grounds the film with enough emotion to make his connection with Catalya work (basically the only relationship that is anywhere near believable -- the less said about the random white guy love interest, the better). As a movie, Colombiana could absolutely be worse, but it also could be a whole lot better. This is made-to-order middle-of-the-road fare for theatrical tourists in need of an afternoon fix -- and not much more.