What is it about fresh-faced little killers? Ever since Chiaki Kuriyama first gave us all nightmares forever as the terrifying Go-Go in Kill Bill, it seems like we can’t get enough of the innocent wee maimers. Chloe Moretz sliced her way into our hearts as Hit-Girl, Saoirse Ronan gave us her best owl-faced assassin in Hanna, and now in Colombiana we’re treated to an opening sequence that delights in its own pre-teen slasher fun.
Young Cataleya is but a small amount of years old when she’s forced out of her native Columbia by a pack of Bad Dudes. After killing her parents like bastards (for reasons that are laughable vague, but apparently involve a lost sim-card) the Dudes foolishly try and reason with the little girl in the clean uniform and big eyes, only to have their shit firmly lost upon discovering she’s not only got a knife – she knows how to use it. On the run from the gang, sim-card safely swallowed and somehow knowing there will be a bounty on her lovely deadly head, the girl gets herself swiftly transplanted to the Yoonited States by vomiting violently on an important desk (really). Ready to start a new life with her Chicago-based uncle, he’s eager for Catalaya to forget the past, ignore all the guns he’s got lying around and go to school like a Good Kid. She, however, has other plans. Plans that involve revenge, those guns we mentioned earlier and the thighs she’ll have in about 15 years…
Cut to 15 years later, and Catalaya’s got f*cking great thighs. Making her money by occasionally killing people for loads of money, she’s obsessed with seeking out the gang responsible for her parents’ murders and determined to make them pay. The problem is that the Feds are gradually cottoning onto the fact that there’s a serial killer at work, and with Catalaya’s rugged lover beginning to wonder who – besides one hot spider in bed – this girl really is, it’s not long before Catalaya’s got more than just a total absence of bras to worry about…
So the problem with Colombiana isn’t that the plot is silly (it is), the characters are disposable (they are) and that every performance bar Saldana’s feels phoned in (they do) – heck, great action films have been built on far less. The problem is that Colombiana‘s potential light-weight fun is constantly dragged down by a weighty sense of self-importance, meaning that for every ridiculous-but-fun assassination there’s like four scenes of Zoe Saldana crying nobly in a library.
Never quite throwing caution to the wind a la Kill Bill, but never slowing down enough to focus on the psychology of the killer in the fashion of Clooney’s The American, instead we’re given an awkward mixture of the two; swinging wildly from weepy melodrama to blasty-action within seconds. That’s not to say there aren’t a few smart sequences, there are, and thanks to Saldana’s natural charisma she comes out of even the silliest bits pretty much unscathed, but despite a couple of smooth scenes it all feels rather messy. Michael Vartan is basically noiseless as Catalaya’s love interest Danny, Lennie James is totally wasted as the by-numbers incompetent federal official seeking her out and Callum Blue turns up for about four minutes as a greasy CIA agent in an attempt to make the increasingly ridiculous plot make sense. It doesn’t help.
All in all, it’s just not action-filled enough to get away with its paper-thin premise, and not well-observed enough to justify the silly set-pieces when they do come along. But to be fair, at one stage Zoe Saldana does load a gun whilst dancing slowly, wearing a see-through top and sucking a lollipop. So… yeah. Your call, really.