Movie Review: Zoe Saldana Is Killer, Even If Colombiana’s a Botched Hit

Review in a Hurry: Lt. Uhura wants to kill Bill—or something like that. Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Avatar) plays a sexy contract killer who puts her parents’ murderers in her vengeful crosshairs. A slick actioner from assassin-genre godfather Luc Besson, Colombiana is often preposterous but never boring.

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The Bigger Picture: If Anne Hathaway hadn’t already bagged Catwoman in the next Dark Night sequel, Saldana would’ve made a great choice. As Colombiana proves, the slinky beauty can prowl around in tight bodysuits, nimbly bound across buildings and dispatch villains with feline ferocity. What’s most impressive, however, is how Saldana helps this laughably over-the-top revenge flick land on its feet.

In early ’90s Bogota, schoolgirl Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg)—named for a Colombian orchid—witnesses her folks being slaughtered by mobsters. She escapes by knifing one baddie and outrunning the others (at least Hanna explained its young heroine’s steely strength), then hooks up with her Uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis), a gangsta in Chicago.

Fifteen years later, Cataleya (now Saldana) works with Emilio as a professional hit woman. But in her personal time, it’s personal, bitches: She seeks vengeance against the drug kingpins responsible for Mama and Papi’s murders. She leaves a calling card on her victims’ bodies—the drawing of an orchid—which attracts the top mobster’s attention but also puts the FBI on her trail.

Olivier Megaton directs with all the subtlety you’d expect from someone who renamed himself Megaton. Between the bullets, explosions and supporting caricatures, we get shots of Saldana showering, seductively dancing in her apartment, and sucking on lollipops. Fortunately, the actress makes her character more complex and sympathetic than scripted and conveys the internal conflict of her mission.

Megaton does stage kick-ass, self-consciously silly action sequences—notably a jailhouse-set assassination and a stuttery mano-a-mano climax. (Who knew toothbrushes and hand towels could be wielded so wickedly?) However, the film shoots itself in the foot by making Cataleya invincible—she never makes a misstep or miscalculation—thereby diminishing the suspense.

Still, for fans of guilty-pleasure popcorn movies, Colombiana packs, um, Megatons of fun.

The 180—a Second Opinion: The soundtrack racks up the clichés. Does the scene of a Colombian mob betrayal really need to be underscored with a woman singing “Ave Maria“? Mi Dios…

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