Action-packed ‘Colombiana’ delivers a girl powered punch

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

When I first heard the title “Colombiana,” I figured it was some sort of arty thing that would be in and out of the Landmark or the Lefont in a week.

Then I realized, not only was it playing all over Atlanta; it was playing and playing and playing. Weeks after opening, the movie is still around.

And, I blush to admit, no wonder. With an action-babe protagonist (Zoe Soldana) who makes Angelina Jolie look like June Cleaver, “Colombiana” is a grrrl-power guilty pleasure.

We first meet Cataleya (the names comes from a kind of orchid) as a solemn-faced 10-year-old (Amanda Stenberg). After her parents are gunned down by local drug thugs, she proceeds to out-run, out-jump and out-think her pursuers. Picture a parkour artist in a schoolgirl uniform and Mary Janes.

Even Quentin Tarantino would be impressed.

Cut to 15 or so years later. Cataleya has grown up into the gorgeous, svelte, single-minded Soldana. And the single thing on her mind is revenge. She plans to track down and punish anyone who had anything to do with her parents’ death.

With moves like a cat burglar and a body count already in the double digits, she’s a lean, mean killing machine. Like a Victoria Secret model with a license to kill. But, just as all lone-wolf assassins, regardless of gender, must learn: killing has its consequences, no matter how skilled your methods or worthy your motives.

If Cataleya sounds a bit familiar, that’s probably because she’s French filmmaker Luc Besson’s favorite type: the whip-thin, drop-dead-gorgeous, slightly androgynous deadly female who favors skin-tight body suits or skinny jeans and skimpy tank tops. Earlier incarnations include “La Femme Nikita” and Milla Jovavich.

But Soldana, whom you may remember from “Avatar” (where she was every bit as lithe, but blue-skinned), has a charisma and ferocity that’s all her own. Her cheekbones may take our breath away, but so do her martial arts chops.

Cataleya does, however, come with the usual accoutrements: a mentor (Cliff Curtis) who warns her that vengeance can bite back; a sympathetic but still determined FBI agent (Lennie James), kind of an Inspector Javert to her distaff Valjean; and a boy-toy (Michael Vartan) who looks a bit like Bradley Cooper and, truth be told, has more to do than Jessica Chastain in “The Tree of Life” or any number of female squeezes in any number of movies.

This time, Besson has stuck to writing and producing, and he has handed directorial responsibilities to the wonderfully named Olivier Megaton (didn’t Godzilla battle something called Megaton? Or was that Megatron?) His previous line of work? Graffiti artist

Which, given “Colombiana’s” giddy splatter-action approach, sorta makes perfect sense.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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