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By MARK TURNER
There was a time when revenge films played at drive-ins across the country. Low-budget efforts that made stars of actors like Charles Bronson and Jan Michael Vincent were hits and led them to bigger and better things. These films were so successful that major studios began making them as well. COLUMBIANA shows that it continues to do so.
In 1992, nine-year-old Catalyea witnessed the murder of her mother and father in Bogotá, Columbia. Her father did the killing for a cartel leader and although they swear allegiance, neither actually trustd one another. Questioned by the leader of the killers, Cataleya sticks a knife through his hand and then runs off, using a plan her father gave her. Once in the states she finds her way to her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis) and tells him she wants to be trained as a killer.
Fast forward 12 years and we now see Cataleya all grown up in the form of actress Zoe Saldana. Pretending to be a drunk driver she gets herself arrested and locked up for the night. In reality she’s stone-cold sober and using the arrest as a ruse to get close to a special prisoner. Using methods taught to her over the years, she escapes her cell, kills the prisoner and returns to her cell before anyone is suspicious. The next morning she leaves before the jail is locked down.
Cataleya has fulfilled her destiny and desire to become a leading contract killer. Her one flaw is that she leaves a drawing of a cataleya, an orchid, on each of her victims. She’s done so in hopes that it will draw out Don Luis, the man who had her father killed. The killings so far have paid her well and provided her with experience. Now she wants to use it for the promise she made at age nine.
Small subplots are found as well. Cataleya has a lover, an artist named Danny (Michael Vartan) she shares a bed with but no information. To be close to someone would present the possibility of dividing her attention or possibly losing them. We also have a determined FBI agent named Ross (Lennie James) who is closing in on this mystery killer they call the Tag killer due to her artwork on the victims.
Cataleya takes on one more job before the police finally discuss her tags with the press and force Don Luis out of hiding. Taken in as an informant by the CIA, he’s in New Orleans under their care, still running his drug business on the side. Wåhen he discovers who this killer is he sends his men to wipe her and any family members out. But to do so will do nothing more than make her motivation stronger than ever.
COLOMBIANA was hyped as being from the same people who made TAKEN. While there are connections the film isn’t nearly as good. Yes, it provides plenty of action, violence and explosions but the story isn’t quite as interesting.
Zoe Saldana in the lead shows that she can act and do so well enough to take the lead in a major motion picture. Each role she’s taken in the past has led her this direction and now one could say she’s achieved the status of star enough that she can carry a film on her own.
All that said I find this movie more in the so-so category, a movie that provides the basics of what is expected in an action film these days but never quite makes it one that you’ll want to watch over and over again. It includes all of the traits of the genre but never quite pulls you in in the same way TAKEN did. If you’re going to tout the connection between one movie and another you’d better make sure it’s as good if not better.
But it does offer a nice evening’s entertainment when the comparison is tossed aside. Perhaps those in charge of advertising would do better next time not to compare one movie to another. In doing so a decent movie would seem better on its own. COLUMBIANA is a decent action flick, but when compared to others it loses a few points.
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