Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{Colombiana opened in Seattle area theaters on Friday August 26th}

Colombiana the new revenge flick written by Luc Besson and starring Zoe Salanda makes me sadder and sadder the more I think about it.  Mainly because it really could have been something …. something considerably less ridiculous than it ultimately turned out to be.  I really wanted to like it, and while I didn't loathe it the whole experience left me with a serious WTF? sensation.  Basically it's an extended style but little substance cautionary tale of how it's important to not leave your enemies kid's running around if you're an evil drug lord hell bent on assassinating your former close friend.  Because eventually they're gonna grow up and maybe stab you in the neck with a disassembled piece of a handgun.  Seriously, letting the kid get away just never ends well.  It's right up there with explaining your full evil plan to James Bond when you think he's about to die.

The film opens with young Cataleya's (Saldana) dad walking away from some sort of unsavory life under the employ of a drug kingpin in Columbia.  Soon after we learn that apparently he violated some of the terms of his employment contract and goons are sent to kill him.  Mother and father die but Cataleya makes a rather entertaining escape parkour style through the streets of their neighborhood.  Only to emerge conveniently from the sewers at the steps of the American embassy where based on some valuable intel she's transported to the United States.  There she meets up with her uncle and convinces the family loving borderline psychopath to teach her to take human life with abandon (and a bit of panache).  She's pretty insistent about the whole thing.  Wanting revenge of course.  So he agrees to teach her.  Which you sort of understand, she does seem like a stubborn little kid.

Now, if at this point you're hearing the story and remembering I mentioned Luc Besson you'd be forgiven for thinking – hey, is she going to grow up and then have at least one embarrassing and complete random dance scene. Only to then repeatedly hook up with some guy who's being used as the the laziest plot device in years?  A guy who is so tired of having sex with Saldana that he whines about how they never talk?  Well – yeah, of course – Luc Besson, right?  There's also probably another thought rattling around in your head which goes something like this – "hey, isn't that the story the plot of The Professional a truly fantastic film?"  You'd be right again.  It's basically the same idea.  Just not remotely as good. 

There are flashes of competence (and style) that makes it clear the folks involved know how to make a film.  But after the first 1/3 or so it's all so predictable and a bloodless (in the no tension sense) that I was never able to enjoy it.  It's that initial promise that makes me feel sad.  With a truly interesting script – or maybe another three-dimensional character for Salanda to play against at least this really could have been something.  As it stands it's a nice start but never rises about an exercise in style.  And you certainly don't want to think too long about the logic of the plot.

Oh – yeah, I was in the middle of explaining what happens next to little Cataleya.  She grows up and seeks to get revenge in possibly the most roundabout way possible.  Whether she learns that revenge has negative consequences to those around you I'll leave up to you to discover.

I've seen considerably worse films, and there are certainly a few fun moments.  Just for the most part few you haven't experienced before.  If you're a huge fan of Zoe Salanda this is likely a good choice, there's certainly a fair amount of her on display.  I wouldn't be surprised if Ms. Salanda's nipples are credited as a co-star in the film.  Apparently her style of wet work requires her to strip down into as little as possible for each kill. Just as long as it's tight and near transparent it's appropriate attire for an assignment.  A fellow film writer suggested afterward that's an intentional ruse to distract her target.  And I suppose that's true, I was indeed totally distracted from the action by the thought – "get that poor woman a sandwich."  Kidding aside I don't think anything wrong with the film is Salanda's fault.  It's a performance that's credibly badass enough that I could see this having been a very very different picture with a better storyline (or other characters that are more than two dimensional).  

Another bright spot was the extended opening sequence when run Cataleya runs for her life.  That's probably the picture's peak tension and it's mostly downhill from there.  You may also appreciate some of the visual homages to the film it's clearly based on.  But for me that wasn't really enough to not laugh when Johnny Cash plays over the credits.  I walked out thinking that if they'd just skimped some on the music licensing maybe they would have had the extra cash to pay for a bit more depth of plot.  If that is what you're looking for, I'm thinking a copy of The Professional or Le Femme Nikita might be a better bet.