Starring Zoe Saldana
Directed by Oliver Megaton
107 min., PG-13
Release date Aug. 26, 2011
Zoe Saldana may be a star on the rise, but this hackneyed, hyperactive action thriller, alas, takes her down a notch.
The beautiful, exotic-looking actress (of Dominican/Puerto Rican descent) steadily worked her way up the Hollywood ladder in a variety of roles before making a major mainstream impression as the noble, blue-skinned female princess in Avatar (2009).
She also shows a lot of skin in Columbiana, but this time it’s her natural shade, displayed in a variety of skimpy, body-hugging outfits to better reveal her buff arms, sexy, super-toned legs and slender, sculpted curves.
Saldana’s character is the now-adult version of the little girl, Cataleya, we meet in the movie’s opening scenes, a wide-eyed innocent who witnesses the execution of her parents at the hands of a brutal Columbian crime boss.
Yes, a better name for her character might have been Columbiana, to go with the title of the movie. Or maybe call the movie “Cataleya,” to go with her name. The word “Columbiana” is Spanish and refers to a woman from Columbia in South America, which is where an orchid called the cattleya grows. I know that because I looked it up—which is a lot of work to connect the title of a movie to its meaning, and to a character who’s named something else.
And that’s just the start of the problems with Columbiana, which piles on so many ludicrous events, puzzling plot points and fake South American accents that it quickly loses any chance it might have had otherwise to become a halfway decent pulp mix of beauty, bullets and bad guys.
Cataleya’s plan to take down the men who murdered her parents requires an absurdly long, unnecessarily complicated and ridiculously roundabout route to get the job done. And though she’s supposed to be the movie’s “heroine,” audiences may sour a bit on her crusade when she blackmails an honest police chief and threatens to murder his innocent family.
The movie builds to an explosive crescendo that, ironically, brings on one of its biggest hoots. As Cataleya sprays a slow-mo hail of bullets from a balcony in a mansion swarming with her enemies, it comes close to a parody of Al Pacino’s iconic, over-the-top “Say hello to my little friend” scene from Scarface.
And if you’re going to have a climactic, hand-to-hand, life-or-death battle in a bathroom, and one of the characters very conspicuously picks up a pair of toothbrushes…for goodness sakes, do something with them!
The final scene shows Cataleya moving on. Here’s hoping the talented Saldana does likewise, to another movie that shows off her as something more than a clichéd, emotionally dented bit of eye candy carving a preposterous path of destruction.