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Still shot from the movie: Colombiana.

Colombiana

After witnessing the murder of her mother and father when she was a child, Colombian born Cataleya Restrepo (Zoe Saldana) grows up to be an assassin. But she has a private agenda -- revenging her parents' death.

Overall Grade: D
Violence: D
Sexual Content: C-
Language: D+
Drugs/Alcohol: C-
Release Date: 26 Aug 2011
Run Time: 108
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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In-Depth Review

At age 33, Zoe Saldana already boasts a range of characters on her resume having starred in films like Vantage Point, The Terminal, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Drumline, Takers, Guess Who, and Star Trek. Now she is taking on a role even more fantastical than the blue-skinned Na’vi princess she portrays in James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar.

In the action-packed drama Colombiana, Saldana plays a calculating, methodical killer. Her calling card is a stylized outline of an orchid drawn on the lifeless chests of her victims. But despite her despicable actions, the filmmakers try hard to justify them.

As a nine-year-old in Bogota, Cataleya Restrepo (younger version played by Amandla Stenberg) watches her parents gunned down by order of a supposed family friend (Beto Benites). Dressed in a school uniform and Mary Jane-style shoes, she sits perfectly still through it all. Then when one of the killers (Jordi Mollà) threatens her, she nails his hand to the kitchen table with a knife.

Making her way to Chicago, she finds her Uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis) who is in the assassination business. With some persuasion, he agrees to teach her the family trade, providing she goes to school. (It seems education really is helpful in all walks of life.) Fifteen years later, Cataleya works as a hired gun for her uncle and seeks revenge on her parents’ killers in her free time. Already she boasts 22 murders (though that doesn’t appear to account for the numberless henchmen, bodyguards and other luckless beings caught in the crossfire).

In the ten years she’s been systematically slaughtering the gunmen from her childhood, the police haven’t secured a single clue about the serial killer with the artistic flair. Finally frustrated with the lack of evidence, they release a photo of one victim with the lipstick illustration on his chest. The picture sparks little attention in the press but clearly puts Emilio on edge. He worries Cataleya’s reckless desire for retribution is putting them all in danger.

But Cataleya’s obsession isn’t the biggest problem with this script|it’s the protagonist’s invincibility. This shrewd butcher picks off her victims like rubber ducks in a carnival game, scales buildings like Spider-Man (but without the cumbersome web), and makes Laura Croft look like an amateur Annie Oakley. And when she’s not in executioner mode, the secretive Cataleya ferociously seduces her boyfriend (Michael Vartan) with whom she shares nothing but sexual favors.

Filled with sensuality, repetitive gunfire exchanges, booming explosions and dozens of bloody corpses, this predictable, murder-by-number plot is an assault not only on the senses but also on audience intelligence.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Violence: The film opens with scenes of street violence, guns, gangs, burned out vehicles, dead bodies and ravaged neighborhoods. Characters are gunned down with sprays of bullets. Armed guards patrol around houses. A child stabs a man in the hand with a knife. Thugs chase a child through the streets on foot and on a motorcycle. A girl makes herself vomit. A man beats a blood-covered character tied to a chair. A man talks about the death of his child and the revenge he took on the killers. A school principal is bribed. A man fires random shots on a busy residential street. An inebriated woman smashes into a police cruiser and is hauled off to jail. Numerous characters are shot, beaten and killed for revenge. Dead men are shown lying in pools of blood. Men are attacked and killed by animals. Explosions kill countless characters in a house. Characters are threatened frequently. A character drives a large truck over a carload of people. Bloody injuries are seen. Characters struggle in a brutal hand-to-hand fight.

Sexual Content: A woman is seen in the shower. Frontal nudity is briefly depicted in a non-sexual context. Female characters are repeatedly seen in skimpy clothing and underwear or with bare backs. A couple kisses passionately while undressing. They are later seen sleeping in bed together. A man goes to bed with several scantily clad women, bare backs are seen. Multiple sexual partners are implied. A woman’s nipples are seen through her clothing. Many scenes include sensual depictions.

Language: The script includes frequent profanities, terms of Deity and scatological slang along with a strong sexual expletive used in a non-sexual context.

Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters smoke an unknown substance in a hookah pipe. Characters frequently smoke cigarettes or cigars. They also drink often. Characters are portrayed as inebriated.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Revenge drives Cataleya to hunt down her parents’ killers. Is that a healthy emotion to harbor for all those years? How does it affect her relationships with others? Does her desire for justice justify her actions?

What impact can childhood experiences have on a person’s later life? How can parents or adults help youth deal with traumatic events?

Though this film promotes female empowerment are the depictions even close to reality? How does the script also attempt to appeal to a male audience members?

Video alternatives

In Batman Begins, another character grows up to become a vigilante after watching his parents killed. Zoe Saldana plays a more law-abiding citizen in Star Trek.

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: Colombiana

Release Date: 20 December 2011

Colombiana releases to home video on December 20, 2011, with the following bonus extras:

- The Making Of Colombiana

- Cataleya’s Journey

- Assassins

- Training A Killer

- Take The Ride

Join the Conversation

About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

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