3 out of 5 stars
Producer Luc Besson (LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, TRANSPORTER, and a few dozen other European-made action films) and director Olivier Megaton (TRANSPORTER 3) bring us this tale of a trained assassin played by Zoe Saldana (AVATAR, STAR TREK, THE LOSERS) who kills by day and hunts for her parent’s killers by night. Right off the bat, we get the fairly straightforward concept followed by a long and exciting parkour chase of a little girl through the urban blight of Columbia. Once she finds her uncle in Chicago, she begins her training (with one of the most ludicrous scenes in recent memory). Comparisons between this and other Besson properties such as LEON (some have even gone so far as to surmise that this film started out as a sequel it with this 'Cataleya' being Natalie Portman’s Mathilda all grown up) and LE FEMME NIKITA are inevitable, but only barely justified. Yes, the film features a beautiful assassin being mentored by an older, experienced killer, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. What COLUMBIANA is… is a stage on which Zoe Saldana can strut her stuff. And what stuff it is… visually striking, physically adept, and lethal with most weaponry, Saldana is really good in this. She should be. It’s the role she’s been playing in a good number of her recent movies. And that’s the thing with COLUMBIANA (and Besson’s films in general)… for all of its visual flair, its intricately-plotted action, the story is so utterly familiar that there’s never really any drama to it. And then, there’s the ridiculous plot devices (the way people find out her identity and the supposed “morphological database” nonsense are just two examples) which are so wildly contrived that it’s just this side of insulting. In the end, Columbiana is a fun, but predictable action showcase for a beautiful and talented actress. A decent little time-waster with little on its mind other than to entertain. Oh, and look for THE WALKING DEAD’s Lennie James and Callum Blue (DEAD LIKE ME) in small roles in this fun, but predictable film.