“Colombiana:” Not very Colombian

The title may sound like the movie is going to have a lot to do with Colombia but that is completely misleading. Aside from a few close-ups on a couple of “Bogota” license plates there is nothing Colombian about “Colombiana.”

Zoe Saldana plays Cataleya, a trained killer whose parents were murdered in front of her when she was nine years old. But Saldana’s diverse ethnic background doesn’t include Colombian. She is Dominican and Puerto Rican. Saldana is an incredibly talented actress who is capable of making us believe she is a blue chick from another planet, as she did in “Avatar,” but there was nothing given to her in the script for “Colombiana” to help her sell herself as a Colombian. And that’s just the beginning of the ethnic issues.

Amandla Stenberg who plays 9-year-old Cataleya is African-American and Danish. She’s adorable but doesn’t look Colombian which is important since she is the only “Cataleya” ever allegedly seen in Colombia. She was living in Bogota when her parents were murdered. But it’s not even Bogota. The parts of the movie that are supposed to have taken place in Bogota were actually filmed in Mexico City. Hence the need for several close-ups on the Bogota license plates. Otherwise, no one would know they were supposed to be there. It looks nothing like Bogota.

I was looking forward to seeing Bogota on the big screen. I recently visited the crowded, rainy city and wanted to see how the director could make it look good since everything looks better in movies. I guess I’ll never know. But it was instantly obvious that no one was concerned about location accuracy. I know movies are often filmed in different locations than where there meant to take place but at least there is an effort to make it look truthful. Not in “Colombiana.”

Perhaps that’s what happens when a French screenwriter (Luc Besson) and French director (Olivier Megaton) try to make a movie about Colombia. The worst part is that it wasn’t even essential to the script that Cataleya be from Colombia; she could have been Mexican. It wouldn’t have changed anything except for maybe her name which is a type of Orchid found in Colombia, or so the movie would lead you to believe. It can really be found in many places throughout Central and South America. Since they don’t seem to care at all about accuracy, why not just say it’s found in Mexico City? It wouldn’t change the believability of the movie.

Which brings me to Cataleya’s seemingly super-human powers. Nine-year-old Cataleya can jump off the roof of buildings, throw herself down a storm drain and lift a hundred-plus pound manhole cover. Adult Cataleya can climb a brick building, swim unnoticed in a pool of sharks and carry a man with one arm as she pushes a button with the other. But this can be fun to watch and makes for some exciting action scenes.

Saldana spends most of the movie in skimpy clothes which come off a lot. Even when she wears a shirt, it’s practically see-through. Not that that’s a bad thing but this may be her most redeeming quality and that makes it a shame that the talents of such an amazing actress were wasted.

Go see for what it is – an over-the-top action chick-kicks-butt-while-scantily-clad flick. Don’t go expecting to learn anything about Colombia or much of anything at all.

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