“That’s what you want? You want me to teach you how to be a killer? Sure. No problem.”
High octane, hyper real, over the top action is a tricky genre to get right. When it’s really right, you get the amazing, bat shit crazy fun of movies like Crank, or Shoot ‘Em Up, or The Raid 2. When you get it wrong, you get pretty much every other attempt at high octane, hyper real, over the top action. There’s a delicate balance in these between being self aware, and winking too much at the camera. Of cranking the action and danger to crazy levels, but still making sure it looks just real enough to feel actual danger and stakes on behalf of the characters.
And there’s one way you can always be sure you’ll be getting the right mix of all of that stuff. And that’s when you see the name Luc Besson anywhere in the credits. He directs awesome high octane, hyper real, over the top action. He produces awesome high octane, hyper real, over the top action. And in the case of Colombiana, he writes awesome high octane, hyper real, over the top action.
Sometime in the mid 90s, in South America, Cat (Amandla Stenberg) witnesses the slaying of her drug trafficking parents. In a great scene of parkour action through the tiny streets of Bogota and an almost slum shanty town, she escapes to the American embassy where a computer disc given to her by her father works as a passport to America. Once States side, she escapes her chaperones and finds her way to her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis) in Chicago. Here, the 10 year old Cat declares all she wants is to learn how to be a killer.
10 years later, and Uncle Emilio has obviously made her wish come true. Because now, Cataleya is a cold blooded, expert assassin, played by Zoe Saldana. Bent on revenge and in no way softened over the years, Cataleya is out to take down anyone and everyone connected to her parents’ murder in Colombia. And one by one, she gets closer to her goal as Colombiana dishes one amazing assassination set piece after another.
What I liked most about Colombiana is its refusal to get bogged down in plausibility and details. There’s no training montage, once we see adult Cataleya kicking ass we just believe those years of training that happened off screen. When she has access to an FBI agent’s phone and uses it to assault a CIA agent’s seemingly secure office, we just assume she has the technical skill and high level contacts needed to arrange this kind of thing. There’s no time to see them planning and all that minutia, and there’s no need. Colombiana ludicrous and overblown and insane. It’s also awesome high octane, hyper real, over the top action.