Things I Learned From Movie X: Columbiana
By Edwin Davies
September 1, 2011
In Colombiana, the latest film from the stable of French schlockmeister Luc Besson, the delightful and beautiful Zoe Saldana stars as Cataleya, an assassin who as a child witnessed the murder of her father and mother at the hands of Columbian crime lords. Barely escaping with her life, she vows revenge against the people who wronged her and, when she's all grown up and Zoe Saldanacized, she sets about systematically killing key members of their organisation in the hopes of provoking them into fighting her.
Despite starring one of the most beautiful and charismatic actresses working today, and despite being a film that consists almost solely of said beautiful woman killing bad guys, Colombiana is a deathly dull film, fatally undone by slack pacing, a lack of invention in its action scenes and a central character who is bland yet completely unlikable, with no redeeming features other than the fact that she likes dogs (which admittedly counts for nuance where Besson is concerned.) Yet under the layers of violence and dullness, there are kernels of knowledge and truth, waiting to be sieved and cleaned (this metaphor is going to have some serious stretch marks) for public display. Kernels such as...
Stay in school, kids.
It's hard to discern a message in Colombiana, since Besson's work is generally apolitical (with the obvious exception of Taken, with its ultra right-wing message that "ALL FOREIGNERS ARE TEH EV0LS!"), but if there is one, it's that this world desperately needs teachers, lawyers and smarter killers. During the film's unnecessarily protracted, non-Zoe Saldana featuring prologue, young Cataleya asks her uncle Emilio (played by Cliff Curtis, Hollywood's go-to guy for any role that requires someone who looks non-specifically ethnic) if he can teach her to become a killer. Rather than saying that maybe she should ask for a doll house or something, he says that he will train her, then promptly enrolls her in a local school. When Cataleya says that the school has nothing to teach her about how to become a killer - suggesting that she knows nothing of the American public school system - Emilio says to her that she needs to go because, in order to become a great killer and not get caught, she needs to learn about stuff other than killing. I mean, so many kids get into colleges on killing scholarships and flounder when they can't keep up academically, to push her to study and work hard is just good parenting.
So kids, the next time you're wondering why you have to learn algebra, or why you should care about people who have been dead for hundreds of years, remember that it could be vital in helping you plot the trajectory of a sniper bullet, or provide you with the basic research skills required to study the old masters. Like any art, knowing the basics can provide invaluable insight, and once you know the fundamentals, you can create your own exciting methods of murder.
Equal rights now!
Colombiana's silly, silly plot doesn't take place in a vacuum, and in a token nod to something resembling reality, the large bodycount she achieves does not go unnoticed by the police or the FBI, represented by Agent Ross (Lennie James), a man possessed of a brilliant investigative mind and a lucky streak a mile long. However, Ross doesn't initially believe that the killer he is hunting could be a woman, because no woman has ever killed anyone ever as far as he knows. After all, they're all so dainty and domestic.
In this light, Cataleya's story is not one of a young woman seeking vengeance against those who killed her family, but of a woman striking a blow for women everywhere, proving that they are just as capable of firing a rocket launcher as any man. All it needed was a full chorus singing "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves" over the credits and it could have been the greatest feminist statement since that woman shot Andy Warhol.
There is a man walking this Earth by the name of Olivier Megaton
Yes, the director of Colombiana is really called Olivier Megaton. Except he isn't, really, because that is just the name that he adopted for himself, rather than because he is one of the Newport Megatons. He was actually born Olivier Fontana, which is a pretty fun name in and of itself, but changed it to Megaton because his birthday, the 6th of August 1965, was the 20th anniversary of the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima, and naming yourself after one of the great disasters of human history is perfectly normal. Why, I had a teacher at school named Dennis Blitzkrieg (real name Dennis Jones), and once dated a girl named Matilda Challengerspaceshuttlecrash (real name Matilda Bubonic-Plague, of the Hampshire Bubonic-Plagues). I myself have often thought of changing my surname to one relating to an historical event that happened on my birthday (August 8th), and just this week I signed the papers to make it official. So, from now on, these columns shall be written not by Edwin Davies, but by Edwin SouthkasaisecedesfromtheCongo. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and get some extra-large business cards made up.