Opening 15 Sep 2011
Two men seem to be celebrating brotherhood as Ava Maria plays in the background. One man says, “I love you like a song.” The other replies, “I love you like a father.” Since they are drug dealers in Bogota, Colombia, we know this is nonsense. Shortly afterwards, Fabio and his wife are dead and their daughter Cataleya is running through the city (where the long and beautiful stairways make Blankenese look skimpy). She buys a flight to the U.S by coughing up important information which her father had thoughtfully given her before his death. She lands in a government plane in Florida, flees her minder and arrives at her Uncle Emilio’s house in Chicago (all that at age nine?). He is also a drug dealer, embittered by the death of his son. What does she want to be when she grows up: fireman, cowboy, ballet dancer? She says, “I want to be a killer. Can you help?” Emilio answers, “Sure.” Still she has to go to school and 15 years later she is grown up (and beautiful and svelte), and living in California as Valerie Phillips. From this point we are entertained with Cataleya’s successful endeavors to fulfil annihilation contracts for her uncle, while, in her free time, she takes revenge on her parents’ murderers, who have moved to New Orleans under CIA protection. She leaves her trademark orchid at each crime scene. This is a lonely life and, understandably, she is susceptible to the willing arms of Danny Delanay, an artist who has no clue about her secret life and calls her Jennifer.
This is a successful action film in the genre of Cat Woman and Lara Croft. Once you’ve decided to ignore inconsistencies (e.g., Emilio shoots out a windshield before witnesses to make a point in her education and walks away as if he had just demonstrated how to throw a baseball – no police anywhere), then you can settle back and watch the bad guys, Marco, Rico, Rizzo and Don Luis, suffer. Zoe Saldana as the grown-up Cataleya slithers through pipes, under floors and through water. Her apartment is a fortress. She can open locks, dismantle cameras, shoot from neighboring sky scrapers and train dogs to eat on command. The CIA comes across as smug idiots while the FBI learns its lesson the hard way. The music plays right along from one climax to the next. Directed by Olivier Megaton, and also starring Jordi Mollà, Cliff Curtis, Lennis James, Amandia Stenberg (with the beautiful eyes) and Michael Vartan, it was filmed in Mexico, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami and France. For the first time I saw hand-to-hand combat using bath towels and tooth brushes. The SWAT team guys hide behind their shields like little Playmobil figures – all very enjoyable in spite of spurts of violence. Cataleya derives her name from Cattleya which is an orchid cultivated by William Cattley in 1824. So why is the film title called Colombiana? (Becky Tan)