Colombiana: A Female-Led Action Thriller That Hits Pretty Close To The Mark

29 08 2011

Colombiana is the sequel-that-never-was to Luc Besson’s 1994 classic, The Professional. The writer/producer revamped his script for the sequel and created an entirely new story, the result of which is Colombiana. Here’s the breakdown:

Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) witnessed the brutal murder of her parents when she was only nine. She quickly dedicated her life to becoming the best assassin she could be. But revenge can’t be ignored, and Cataleya embarks on a quest to rid the world of her family’s murderers.

The Monkey: Colombiana has a solid story. While familiar, the revenge thriller is nearly always satisfying; you can’t help but want to see the bad guys get what’s coming to them. And make the leading protagonist a beautiful, resourceful, gun-toting woman and you’ve got yourself an enjoyable romp, no matter how you spin it. Saldana proved she can carry a movie – she channeled the likes of Milla Jovovich and Angelina Jolie well and added a certain poise and grace of her own.

The supporting cast members were equally strong. Jordi Molla as the go-to henchman, Cliff Curtis as the wise mentor and Callum Blue as the dirty CIA operative delivered standout performances that lent a much-needed gravity to the opera of flying bullets and skin-tight catsuits.

The action was the centerpiece of Colombiana – no surprise here. The filmmakers managed to keep the sequences fresh and entertaining. From MacGyver-like jury-rigging to shark tanks to an all-out one-woman assault on a fortified compound, Colombiana kept the action coming one magazine after another.

The Weasel: Some of the emotional notes of the film were off-key. While we feel bad for nine-year-old Cataleya, and sympathize with her desire to avenge her parents, the transition from avenger to for-hire assassin was glossed over and underdeveloped. Why was it a surprise to her uncle (Curtis) that she was seeking revenge, when that’s why she began her training in the first place? Why did she so carelessly put her remaining family in danger, despite her meticulous nature and attention to safety in all other aspects of her life? These questions were left unanswered in order to move the story along. Unfortunately, no amount of bullets could keep these plot holes plugged.

The weakest link here was FBI agent Ross (Lennie James). His character was late to the game and given too much screentime without enough substance to make the audience care. Ross was intended to be the cat to Cataleya’s mouse, but he ended up being an unnecessary piece of an already muddled puzzle. And while I like Michael Vartan, his turn as the artist/love-interest Danny was underutilized. The character was a foil, meant to humanize Cataleya and give her a glimpse of what her life could be; however, there was far too little development and chemistry between the two to make it a worthwhile plot investment. At some point you realize you don’t care about her romantic entanglements, you just want her to grab a bazooka and blow things to hell.

A stable story peppered with great action and an thoroughly watchable leading lady, Colombiana accomplished what it set out to do and them some. And again I ask…who doesn’t like seeing a gorgeous lady lay the smack down?

3.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Does Zoe Saldana have what it takes to join the kick-ass female action star hall of fame? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Salt: Spicing Up The Summer Movie Season

23 07 2010

Edwin Salt was the original title for this film, with Tom Cruise attached to star. But after Cruise reviewed the script, he felt the character was too much like his role in 2002’s Minority Report and too close in tone to his Mission Impossible movies. So, he decided Knight and Day would be his next project instead. Oops. But, lucky for Angelina Jolie (and audiences), the sultry half of Brangelina rose to the occasion. And a satisfying summer blockbuster was born. Here’s the breakdown:

Two years after being rescued from a North Korean prison, CIA operative, Evelyn Salt meets with a Russian defector in Washington, D.C. When the defector claims Salt is a Russian spy, she must go on the run, searching for the missing clues to her past, all in an effort to clear her name…or so it seems…

The Monkey: Russian bad guys. Check. Nuclear threat. Check. Double, triple, even quadruple agents. Check. Kick ass action scenes. Check. Sounds like a classic 90’s action movie, a la James Bond or Tom Clancy, right? But throw in arguably one of the best action stars of today (male or female), a bit of updated tech and some expert action directing and you’ve got Salt. It’s this return to form that makes Salt so enjoyable. It’s a straightforward spy movie, the likes of which have all but disappeared. And the Clancy comparison will likely be made ad nauseam, I’m sure, and understandably so; after all, director Phillip Noyce helmed the Clancy-based Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994).

Jolie plays Salt with the perfect amount of emotion (or lack thereof, when appropriate) and delivers her unrelenting bad assery full force. Tom Cruise who? Exactly.

Liev Schreiber plays the trusty friend, Ted Winter, with a surprising amount of subtly, knowing just how to complement Jolie’s powerhouse performance without trying to compete or overshadow.

And of course, the action. While some may groan at the sheer audacity of the action sequences, you can’t argue that they aren’t spectacular. From freeway hopping across truck-tops to driving off an overpass while steering a car with a Taser (yes, a Taser), Salt stretches the realm of believability – but the beauty of it is, you won’t care. Just as when Bond stops a bomb countdown with :01 seconds to go or when the action star walks through flaming debris with perfectly coiffed hair, Salt‘s action scenes are so well shot and edited, the audience isn’t given any time to question the logic or realism of it all. You only have time to smile and get excited for what’s coming next.

Not only was the action fun, it was delightfully brutal. Diverging from its 90’s brethren, Salt kicks the violence up a notch, giving Jolie, in particular, a chance to flex her cold-hard-bitch muscles, laying waste to enemies with merciless precision. Noyce deserves a nod for this as well, filming unforgivingly without being graphic.

The most wonderful part of Salt was it’s ability to actually keep me guessing. I’m hard pressed to remember any recent movies that managed to keep secrets or surprise me (without being cheap about it, *cough* Book of Eli *cough*). Noyce’s deft camera angles linger on facial expressions just long enough to make you second guess your assumptions. The actors quirk an eyebrow or throw a glance that disrupts your theories. These small nuances kept Salt from being completely predictable and made for a truly enjoyable movie-going experience.

The Weasel: While the cast works wonderfully, Chiwetel Ejiofor (who plays FBI agent Peabody) was woefully underutilized. I thoroughly enjoyed his steely performance in 2005’s Serenity and loved seeing his versatility in the indie hit, Kinky Boots. Unfortunately, Salt leaves him little to do, other than scowl and remain confused the entire film. A waste.

Salt delivers on its tagline – “Who is Salt?” The movie manages to keep you guessing, and makes sure you enjoy the ride from beginning to end. With clear room for future installments, I pray there will be – classic spy movies deserve a comeback. Move over Jason Bourne – Evelyn Salt has arrived.

4 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did Salt manage to keep you guessing? Were you able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the action? Would you like to see a sequel? Share your thoughts in the comments, but remember – avoid revealing spoilers!

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