It’s an appealing combination; Olivier Megaton handling directorial duties in bringing a Luc Besson screenplay to life (a task he handles not for the first time), and Zoe Saldana taking the lead role as an orphaned Colombian child with unfulfilled vengeance issues following the murder of her parents by a ruthless gang. Clearly therapy is found wanting in Colombia, as young Cataleya grows up with a thirst to become a killer, with the ultimate goal of destroying the kingpin who oversaw the demise of her parents. And that really is all you need to know, as Megaton’s slick action film is a straightforward and unchallenging affair that stimulates visually, but never risks anything cerebral. This may be well and good in some instances, but since Colombiana runs for 107 minutes and boasts the aforementioned filmmaking talent (including Miss Saldana, an undeniably talented actress), we’re left feeling a little short changed.
If you’re just here for stimulation of the visual cortex, then your appetite should be suitably sated by this Saldana-fronted action onslaught, spanning, as it does, three countries in two continents. The opening scene in particular benefits from the high production values afforded by the director’s steady hand, as little Cataleya tears through a maze of inner-city Colombian (actually filmed in Mexico) streets, chased by a variety of heavily tattooed and ultra-mean henchmen. Opportunities for exhilarating chases are exploited well here, with motorbikes whipping through back streets, and characters leaping across buildings and through fragile rooftops. The camera captures the action impressively, gliding up and over the small residences and absorbing all of the colourful detail of the area.
There are numerous other such impressive sequences throughout Colombiana’s running time, and on occasion, Megaton demonstrates a judicious use of resources which ultimately pays dividends. The scene where Saldana stalks her next victim and walks over a glass floor above a shark pool is extremely effective, despite the ‘sharks’ being little more than shadows beneath the thick sheets of glass. And the explosion in the hotel room is satisfyingly realistic, despite its relative ubiquity in the genre.
Performances on the whole are good, with Saldana approaching her lead role with the requisite gusto. Yet with so little substance, such scant thematic content, and such a dearth of character development, the final product feels flimsy and utterly unconvincing. Cataleya’s love interest, for example, is a man who fulfils her sexually, yet knows absolutely nothing about her, and has seemingly never seen her outside of her apartment. Yet as a viewer, we are supposed to accept a growing and deeper bond between the two. And the most absurd moment of all arrives quite early in proceedings, as Cataleya’s uncle, a man tasked with protecting her, decides to pile multiple bullets into a random moving car in order to show her why she shouldn’t become a contract killer. As shocked bystanders gaze at the damaged car and the police arrive, Cataleya and her uncle merely meander away, as if they have all the time in the world. It’s a scene that, even for the more carefree end of the action film spectrum, deprives the film of credibility in the viewer’s mind.
For an action extravaganza with high production quality, Colombiana delivers enough smart visuals to please. Yet if you enjoy anything remotely cerebral in your action film fix, then Megaton’s Saldana-fronted film will leave your brain uncomfortably undernourished.
Megaton's Colombiana arrives on UK shores courtesy of Entertainment in Video, and this region B encoded Blu-ray constitutes a mighty fine release in terms of the consistent quality. Sized using the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and presented in a resolution of 1080p, the transfer of Megaton's kaleidoscopically colourful action thriller does the impressive filming and cinematography full justice, with a very high level of accuracy granting us a rich and breathtaking view of the thinly veiled Mexico (masquarading as Colombia). The gritty, baking South American scenes are heavily filtered in yellow and lend the requisite sensation of oppressive and overwhelming heat, whereas the clean, blue filters such as those capturing Saldana as she stalks an opponent's opulent residence prove refreshing in contrast.
Almost needless to say, the MPEG-4 AVC Video codec has clearly done a splendid job of committing Megaton's visuals to disc, and the film's file size is a relatively modest 18.2Gb, with the supporting files bringing the total disc size up to 23.5Gb.
English subtitles are available as an option.
Note that this UK version, despite its 108 minute running time, is apparently not the same as the fully uncut extended US version, which contains more violent action for you bloodthirsty types. Whilst I don't consider this a problem per se, I'll eschew the extra violent action scenes to avoid sitting through a longer rendition of the movie.
Audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and the aural soundtrack doesn't let its visual partner down. The dialogue is clear enough in this transfer, but you'll hardly notice as all manner of shots, crashes and explosions thunder out of your surround system and give your subwoofer a sound beating. Bass rumbles unleash an authoritative, satisfying boom as Saldana wreaks havoc, yet the few gentle moments are also well accommodated for, with the musical output proving equal to the task at all times.
It's difficult to pick fault in either the visual or aural elements of this release of Colombiana.
Extras are fairly limited here, though in line with the rest of the film and this particular release, the production values certainly meet a high standard of quality. A 25 minute Making of featurette snatches some behind the scenes footage, an insight into the effects and stunts, and slices of interviews with the director and lead actress Saldana, and others concerned with the production of this female fronted action film.
Olivier Megaton delivers a comprehensive commentary track, presented in an embedded window as the film plays out. Megaton provides an engaging enough commentary, and on occasion, behind the scenes clips play within the embedded window to demonstrate certain points.
A Trailer for the film wraps up what is a decent enough set of extras, despite their fairly modest volume.
The production values are consistently high across the film, the transfer, and the extras, and those with a proclivity for well-shot female fronted action thrillers will be pleased enough with Miss Saldana's latest vehicle. Yet with scant depth beneath the rampaging force of Saldana's Cataleya, those seeking cerebral stimulation will be best looking further afield.