Filmmaker Luc Besson continues to indulge his passion for gun-toting femmes in this action-packed romp.
The script, co-written by Robert Mark Kamen, bears all the hallmarks of their previous collaborations (The Transporter trilogy, Taken), pitting a lone figure against seemingly overwhelming odds in the name of justice.
Besson hands over the directorial reins to Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3), who orchestrates some thrilling set-pieces littered with bone-crunching fist fights, explosions and daredevil acrobatics.
The opening chase through the favelas of Colombia is snappily edited and he masterminds a bravura sequence in a police station, which sees the latex-clad heroine crawling around the building’s ventilation ducts to sneak up on a criminal under armed guard.
A late night assault on a kingpin’s mansion errs towards unintentional campness by using a subterranean shark pool as the point of entry.
James Bond would raise a shaken martini in approval.
The film opens in 1992 Colombia, with 10-year-old Cataleya (Amandla Stenberg) witnessing the deaths of her parents at the hands of thug Marco (Jordi Molla) and his gun-toting goons, who are in the employ of druglord Don Luis (Beno Benites).
The girl escapes the melee with an expertly concealed memory card and heads to the American embassy.
“Do you know what this is?” asks an official as he stares wide-eyed at the documents on the memory card.
“Yes,” replies Cataleya coolly, “my passport”.
Initially aided by US authorities, the girl heads to Chicago to reunite with her gangster uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis).
“I want to be a killer. Can you help?” demands the 10-year-old, determined to avenge her parents’ murders.
“Sure,” responds her uncle.
Fast-forwarding 15 years, Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) has blossomed into a sexy assassin responsible for 22 murders in four years all with the same M.O.
FBI Special Agent Ross (Lennie James) and his team are on her trail but she will not end the killing spree until Don Luis and Marco are both six feet under.
Complicating matters, Cataleya is romantically involved with an artist called Danny (Michael Vartan), who wants to know more about the enigmatic woman in his life.
Colombiana is a pacy revenge thriller distinguished by a far better performance from Saldana than the film deserves as an assassin, who is described by one terrified henchman as “a mist under the door, a mouse in the wall...”
The lithe actress wrings genuine tears from her tragic character and seems eminently capable of taking down the entire criminal underworld between applications of lip gloss.
The romance with Vartan’s creative hunk is undernourished and James’s crusading cop is hamstrung with some terrible dialogue but both men make the most of the scraps in the formulaic yet entertaining script.
By Damon Smith
:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5.5/10
Released: September 9 (UK & Ireland), 107mins