La femme repeater

Chicks with guns; cold but fun

Someone call pest control?

Someone call pest control?

Starring Zoe Saldana. Directed by Olivier Megaton. Cinemark 14 and Feather River Cinemas. PG-13.
Rated 3.0

This is the latest high-energy commodity to emerge from what has become the “Luc Besson franchise.”

A French filmmaker gone international, Besson was once a quirky sort of movie auteur, making offbeat action-movie spectacles, in France at first and then in the transatlantic wing of Hollywood after that. Le Dernier Combat (1983), Subway (1985), The Big Blue (1988) and La Femme Nikita (1990) all had a lively pulp-fiction punkishness to them.

But in the mid-1990s, the adventurous writer-director yielded to the producer-writer churning up concepts and funding for others to put through the mill. (To date, Besson has 17 credits as a director, 41 as a writer, and more than 100 as a producer.)

The new film is directed by Olivier Megaton (Transformers 3), but its Besson pedigree is evident in its basic story hook—attractive young woman becomes killing machine. The lethal woman warrior à la Nikita recurs in Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element and with clever variations in The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc and Angel-A.

Colombiana has the impressive Zoe Soldana (Avatar) on hand to bring some electricity to this bristling retread of the Besson/Nikita formula. And the script (co-authored by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen) puts a quasi-contemporary spin on things via a tale of Colombian drug lords and other outlaws that sprawls into the USA and ends up involving both the FBI and the CIA as well.

The crucial hook in this case is that the central character, Cataleya (Soldana), becomes a world-class contract killer for the sole purpose of exacting revenge on the drug lord responsible for killing her parents. She is witness to that event at age 10 (played deadpan by young Amandla Stenberg) and determines almost immediately, with cautious consult from her Uncle Emilio, to make herself into an unstoppable killer.

That of course is less a character concept than a pro-forma excuse for the ballet fury and violence required from this kind of bloodlessly vengeful action fantasy. Soldana is sufficiently athletic to provide a measure of suspended disbelief, but for all its investment in hot-button emotions, Colombiana is very nearly all action and no heart.

Cliff Curtis as Uncle Emilio and Jordi Mollà as a mildly conflicted bad guy manage to work in some small elements of credible, recognizable human feeling, but like everyone else in the film (including Soldana) they are mostly just cogs in the smooth-running machinery of this assembly-line spectacle.