Weinberg Reviews COLOMBIANA

There's one fantastic reason to see the silly new action movie called Colombiana -- and her name is Zoe Saldana. This gorgeous gal broke through in 2000 with movies like Center Stage and Get Over It, but over the last several years she's become a favorite of A) movie geeks, B) casting directors, and C) any heterosexual male with a pulse.

Most recently, she has blazed and slunk her way through some pretty guy-heavy properties: Star Trek, Avatar, Takers AND The Losers, and she always adds a nice touch of class. Sharp, smart, very pretty ... so obviously she's destined to get an action franchise of her very own, right? Sure, maybe, but it's unlikely that Colombiana will be it. Despite Ms. Saldana's effortlessly enjoyable lead performance (and some pretty impressive tough-gal physicality), there's just too much here that we've seen before, very often, and presented much more cleverly in previous films. Hell, you've seen made-for-TV movies that have fresher ideas and smarter scripts.

We meet the unhappy Cataleya Restrepo as a young girl whose parents are killed by the sleazy minions of vicious drug lords. Once Colombiana Junior's overlong prologue comes to a close, it's 2007 (don't ask) and Ms. Restrepo is now living in Chicago with her Uncle Emilio (the New Zealander Cliff Curtis) and she's one bad-ass assassin. Sort of like the world's sexiest ninja, Cataleya dispatches her victims with icy coolness ... but for some reason she chooses to paint a flower on the chest of each victim. Apparently this is meant to be a message to the sleazy minions and the vicious drug lords who murdered her family, but really this is all just a bunch of dreary shoe leather that's thrown at the screen as a rickety framework on which to hang some action scenes.

Used to be that when you'd see the name Luc Besson on a film, you knew you were in for something novel, exciting, or at least interesting. Those days are gone. What Mr. Besson and his longtime writing partner Robert Mark Kamen have concocted here would barely pass muster as an NBC pilot episode for something called "Slinky Ninja." Of course one does not necessarily demand a high intellect from a hit-woman revenge flick, but there's dumb, there's silly, and then there's inept. Editing blunders abound; dialogue ranges from rote and generic to patently absurd; plot holes fly by as unnecessary exposition scenes pile up; and in the movie's drop-dead silliest moment ... a wandering janitor figures out something that 25 detectives could not -- simply because the dumb-headed screenplay needs them to be clueless until Act III.

This patently yawn-worthy narrative is salvaged by the aforementioned Zoe Saldana, who brings a commanding presence to (almost) all of her most violent moments, and a handful of halfway decent action scenes, courtesy of Transporter 3 director Olivier Megaton. Otherwise we're required to struggle through subplots involving clueless boyfriends (Michael Vartan, typecast), frustrated detectives (Lennie James, a good performer saddled with goofy material), and the always-sage advice of Uncle Emilio and his amazing wandering Latino accent. (Little Amandla Stenberg, who plays the young version of Cataleya in Act I, is quite good.)

So while it's always great to see another female-centric take on the lovable old action tropes, Colombiana suffers from a simple case of storytelling laziness. There's little to no care paid to anything outside of the flick's three or four action sequences -- and those will look just as good on home video. In about five weeks.


Colombiana opens wide in the U.S. today. Check local listings for theaters and showtimes.

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