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Movie Beat: Girls take over the action in ‘Colombiana’
by Jenniffer Wardell
Sep 01, 2011 | 1104 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Finally, a woman has kicked down the door to one of the last bastions of male domination – the action movie lead.

Even better, she’s just as good at kicking butt and taking names as the boys that have been there before her. Zoe Saldana has the action skills and tough-as-nails expression to be the next Jason Statham (with better acting skills), and “Colombiana” has the makings of a solid, satisfying action flick that meets the standards of the genre’s master checklist just as thoroughly as anything Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal ever did.

A tough lead with awesome action powers

Check and double check. Saldana kills a lot of people in this movie, all of whom very much deserve it, and makes at least one more whimper like a frightened child.

She pulls off her first bit of awesomeness at the age of 9 (which is too cool for me to spoil) and goes on to show her adeptness at subtle stealth kills (ventilation ducts are her friends), flashy set-up kills (she’s maybe a little bit twisted) and guns blazing, grand-scale chaos and death.

It’s a pure pleasure to watch Saldana kick, punch and shoot, and if her character were allowed to look like she was having a little more fun doing it she could be legendary.

As it is, she also has a very good stony expression, and while her one bout of (extremely well-deserved) crying might be a little bit of sexism she then promptly threatens to do terrible things to an agent’s family if he doesn’t help her. And, more importantly, he believes every word she’s saying even though a half a movie ago he was convinced the assassin couldn’t even be a woman.

Explosions

There are at least two satisfyingly large explosions, both in the last half of the movie. There are also man-eating sharks that are used in a semi-believable and deadly serious manner, which should probably give the movie extra points.

Hand-to-hand combat

There’s not as much of this as in some action movies, since Saldana’s character generally makes it a point to kill the other person before they’d have a chance to hit her back.

There is one big knock-down, drag-out brawl near the end, though, and while I don’t think I believe the toothbrushes there’s a very cool reverse double chokehold I don’t think I’ve ever seen in an action movie before. Even better, the fight also features a loaded gun reversal that I’m pretty sure would make Chuck Norris applaud.

Random federal agents

The movie has a matched set, with Lennie James as the honest and competent (but not quite competent enough) FBI Agent who is trying to solve the murders and Callum Blue as the slightly sleazy CIA agent who has been keeping the Big Bad away from Saldana’s character for so long.

“Romantic” interest who doesn’t actually do much

That would be Michael Vartan’s character, who I think is supposed to be a painter but is mostly there to kiss and/or look soulfully at Saldana.

In what may be a lingering trace of feminization the movie seems to suggest that the two have real feelings for each other, and surprisingly enough she doesn’t have to save him from anything (which also doesn’t leave the boy much screen time). Like with many “romantic” interests in action movies, he’s mostly there to look cute.

Eye candy

In what’s probably another lingering bit if sexism, this is back to Saldana again. Her character clearly doesn’t believe in wearing bras, and there’s a whole scene where she runs around in nothing more than a functional-looking tank and underwear set and a really big gun.

There’s also the requisite gratuitous shower scene (where an attractive woman is shown alone in the shower just so they can show a little skin without getting in trouble), though they do skip the silhouette shot from the other side of the glass/curtain. For Hollywood, that’s almost restraint.

Dead families

Here, the movie actually over-fills its quota by bringing in two dead families and skewing the entire film just a little more to tragedy. Both families belong in some way to Saldana’s character, which also means that she is very, very pissed off.

One-liners

Sadly, no (see above point on the checklist). This is a revenge flick, which means stony expressions rather than quips (Charles Bronson, one of the big stars of old-school revenge action, probably would have cracked his face if he’d ever tried to smile).

Sadly, it turns out that the world will have to wait longer for the female version of Bruce Willis.

jwardell@davisclipper.com
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