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Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011 08:31 am

Saldana’s impassioned turn almost saves Colombiana

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Zoe Saldana in Colombiana.

You have to give French filmmaker Luc Besson credit – he has no problem displaying his preference where women are concerned on the big screen. With La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element, and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc to his credit as either writer or director, you might draw the conclusion that he has a predilection for strong women – very strong women.  And while his biggest hit, The Professional, didn’t have a female butt-kicker front and center, you knew that little Natalie Portman would grow up to be a resourceful young woman who could take care of herself, thank you very much.

Besson’s latest, Colombiana, follows the template of these films as it features yet another lethal lady, one Cataleya (Zoe Saldana), who has the misfortune of seeing her parents murdered before her eyes by the henchmen of a Colombian drug lord.  She escapes to the United States to live with her uncle (Cliff Curtis), who’s a bit of a shady character, and asks him to train her to be a killer.  He agrees to do so in one of the many unintentionally funny moments and an assassin is born as Cataleya sets out to avenge her parents’ murders.

Going in, you know there will be more than a few ridiculous moments as Besson and director Olivier Megaton treat logic as so much collateral damage.  Cataleya may be a crack shot, but if it weren’t for the many fortuitous, split-second turns of events that save her bacon, she’d be a dead one as well.  There are some nicely done action sequences including one showing our heroine’s escape from her surrounded apartment. While the film’s script is silly, it can’t be denied that Megaton knows how to use the camera and keeps things cooking.  Also helping to make this somewhat bearable is Saldana who, out from behind all that blueness from Avatar, shows us that she needs no special effects to keep our attention. Not only can she kick butt convincingly but she conveys her character’s grief and pain just as honestly. She’s a star in the making and we can hope that her next film will be good enough to do just that.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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