Executed with an adroit, vigorous spirit and a fast-paced efficiency meant to dazzle audiences, 'Colombiana' is an empty spectacle of action, hot-blooded vengeance and oozing sexuality, thanks to its star. And not once does the movie ever seem ashamed to embrace this viewpoint in the slightest, delivering precisely what it promises and nothing less.
Coming from the imagination of Luc Besson, (receiving writer/producer credits) and directed by Olivier Megaton, the film opens with a sequence in Colombia which dives right in. Taking a decent chunk of its runtime, the movie springs into action with sudden unexpectedness as thugs chase a little girl, Cataleya, through the streets of Bogotá after she vows vengeance on the men who killed her parents. Clearly establishing the mood and aim with visual feats of parkour, gunfire and rapid editing, filmmakers also wish their self-consciously pretentious exhibition of mindless entertainment to include some heart-rending emotion via the youngster's promise.
Afterwards, the movie quickly slows down and moves onto a standard revenge plot where things don't always go as planned. Trained in Chicago by her uncle Emilio, portrayed admirably by New Zealander Cliff Curtis in yet another Latino role, little Cataleya grows up to be the devastatingly gorgeous Zoe Saldana, now a professional and effectively silent assassin. Our introduction to her talents as a stealthy killer is actually an amusing mix of mild suspense and imaginative implausibility without going overboard.
The script also introduces some minor subplots in an FBI agent (Lennie Ross) taking notice of Cat's handy work and a love interest (Michael Vartan) unable to break down her barriers, but these aspects are smartly kept on the sidelines, called upon only to move the narrative forward. The center of our attention is always on Saldana, demonstrating her emotional range and bringing a surprisingly touching, eye-watering performance to a two-dimensional carbon cutout. Cat is the trademark femme fatale seen in most of Besson's work, but the beautiful Saldana gives the character a powerful depth which makes her seem genuine and her task that more complex. Saldana carries the film exceptionally well and grounds the story, serving as the primary reason for watching 'Colombiana.'
In fact, much of the action film feels like a Besson production, displaying that same visual eye-candy with gritty intensity seen in the likes of 'La Femme Nikita' and 'The Professional.' Interestingly, director Olivier Megaton, who's only other movie of note to American audiences is 'Transporter 3,' doesn't appear to have any qualms with this assessment, adopting a similar style and camerawork. We're even given a hallway sequence reminiscent of Léon's explosive finale and later, a hurried fight scene comparable to 'The Bourne Identity,' replacing the ball point pen with a pair of toothbrushes. It makes for a somewhat entertaining time, but Megaton lacks the chops to truly excite and sell the action with fervor.
Given all its flashy zing and superficial thrills, the most 'Colombiana' can muster up is a momentary piece of gratuitous diversion — the sort of B-quality guilty pleasure most are not embarrassed to admit enjoying. Certainly, the reason for this is Zoe Saldana's moving portrayal of a young woman thirsting for revenge, although it's a terrific performance wasted in a mediocre genre flick that will soon be forgotten.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases 'Colombiana' on a Region A locked, BD50 disc inside a blue eco-vortex case with a glossy cardboard slipcover and a code for an UltraViolet digital copy. This unrated edition of the film adds four minutes to the theatrical cut, but without that particular version included, we can't compare the differences between the two. At startup, the disc commences with a skippable collection of previews for other upcoming releases. Afterwards, viewers are greeted by the usual main menu options with full-motion clips and music.
Blasting its way unto Blu-ray, 'Colombiana' comes on strong with a great-looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1), full of warmth and intensity.
Romain Lacourbas's photography pushes the secondary hues above others with lots of hot amber tones to give the movie an amusingly passionate flare. Primaries are not ruined by the intentional look, remaining vivid and bold throughout.
Contrast also runs slightly warmer with some fairly bright highlights, but the picture maintains excellent clarity and crisp, clean whites. Black levels are quite rich and energetic, providing the image with great dimensionality and outstanding delineation amongst the darkest shadows. Definition and resolution can be exceptional at times, but for most of the film's runtime, the transfer is nicely detailed with clean, distinct lines in nearly every frame, making this a great debut for a new release.
The perfect match to the video is this wonderfully entertaining DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, making great use of the higher resolution during the various action sequences.
Aside from a few moments of discrete effects that create a pleasing ambience, debris from explosions spread into the rear speakers fluidly with effective envelopment and satisfying directionality. The low-end provides a great deal of oomph and power to these scenes, filling the room with strong, far-reaching bass. Most of the lossless mix, however, is maintained in the front soundstage with a welcoming spaciousness and excellently balanced channel separation. Dynamics and acoustics are expansive and detailed, providing the design a great presence and sharp clarity. Vocals are very lucid and precise, allowing listeners to pick up on Cliff Curtis's forced accent and Zoe Saldana's powerful line delivery.
Altogether, this is a great high-rez track for a brainless action flick.
Sony keeps supplements very light and short so as to tempt fans into buying the version with additional bonus material.
'Colombiana' is an empty spectacle of action and superficial thrills — the sort of B-quality guilty pleasure that only promises a diversion of popcorn entertainment. While most of the Luc Besson production is a standard vengeance plot, Zoe Saldana's terrifically moving performance as a young woman thirsting for revenge is the true selling point and the highlight of the entire film. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation, but a lackluster assortment of supplements. Genre fans, especially of Besson's style of visual feats and implausibility, are likely to enjoy, but others should a rental before buying.