Colombiana Review

Video gamers probably remember Batman’s excessive vent punching and crawling in 2009’s Arkham Asylum, wholly appropriate a comparison to Zoe Saldana in Colombiana. No, she’s not donning Bat garb, although there is a revealing, skin-tight Catwoman-esque body suit. She’s just a vent escape artist. It’s fascinating how unguarded air ducts and their entrances can be.

Then again, maybe it’s all build up for her rocket-fueled vengeance during the finale. At that point, she’s clearly had enough of this reviled mob boss who killed her parents. Beyond that, Saldana’s character doesn’t have it too bad one could guess. Her Colombian parents manage to have SD card storage back in 1992 and no one seems to age. Her adoptive family goes 15 years without a wrinkle. Those are solid genes right there.

So, sure, some of Colombiana is preposterous, and it’s coming from the pen of Luc Besson. He’s the one who crafted the idea of Jason Statham deflecting rockets with a cookie sheet in The Transporter. Maybe his feminist Transporter isn’t so bad after all.

Saldana uses her female charms, prancing around her apartment in skimpy clothing, taking showers for no reason other than to tick off the MPAA, and getting it on with a guy she hardly met. When she’s not killing people, that energy has to go somewhere apparently.

Then she turns it up, donning all sorts of commando-oriented gear, shoving people into shark pools, and taking them out when they don’t see it coming. For an action flick, a lot of Colombiana feels restrained and stealthy; fun for character, not so much for Besson loyalists. It’s a shame too, the lens of director Olivier Megaton -who can now be forgiven for whatever Transporter 3 was supposed to be- captures a number of amped up chase sequences. A young Amandla Stenberg drops in as a nine-year old Saldana, pulling off her best free-runner impression with plenty of pizzazz.

Colombiana will wander, its pacing -or tone- never quite sure of where it wants to go next other than the next job. It creates a strong personal bond and then throws it all out for a floor-shredding finale, one with a schizophrenic fist fight and mostly satisfying end for the cocky, whiny villain. It’s a shame it just doesn’t come a little sooner and with fewer stupefying time lapses.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Like the movie itself, Sony’s transfer for Soldana’s starring effort is a little here and then mostly over there, scattered and inconsistent. For sure, there’s a “scorched earth” policy in effect with regards to color timing, whites sopping out the excess orange without ever being, well, white. Flesh tones are glazed hotter than the sun, and not a single primary comes through unscathed. It’s a festival of orange color grading.

Detail will come and go, close-ups at times remarkable in their focus and intensity. Other times it’s lackadaisical, bouncing from a middling mid-range to the superlative. Action scenes mostly get the boot, dropped down to a lesser level to keep a steady hand primed for movement, not premiere definition.

Noise is the next contender, stepping in with plenty of overbearing power that is nothing other than the encode just dropping to the mat and throwing the fight. The typical, pleasing grain structure is barely apparent for much of the running time, adding the right level of texture without interference. When things get complex, this AVC effort just can’t compete, sprawling chroma noise over the screen. One or two hiccups are fine, Colombiana hitting a hi-def speed bump more often than that however.

Black levels are the one hold out, refusing to give. Whereas the contrast will snatch up some high-fidelity detail as the exteriors prove too hearty, black levels love their chance to show off respectfully. They have a superb dimensionality to them, and know when to hold back to keep shadow detail. At least something here knows its limits, and while still overly impressive, a little more TLC could have made this transfer something special.

Video ★★★★☆ 

For all of its silent slaughters and vent creeping, this action/drama/thriller doesn’t have a lot of power behind it. Much of it is drowned out by silencers, springing to life when the bottom-heavy score is called upon. A few car crashes here, a grungy engine there will cause the sub to react, and chase scenes off a plethora of subtle tracking, but it’s all very mundane.

Then, the final act kicks off with an explosive bang, SWAT teams busting down doors, Saldana busts out the rocket launchers, and silencers? Those suddenly go out of style. Gunfire springs to life, bringing with it some peppy highs and spectacular lows, the bigger the gun the better the bump. Debris tears up as a mafia palace is scattered from its firm base, and bullets peck away at walls. It’s all style and you can imagine a sound designer sitting there waiting for the chance to mix that scene.

For the home, fidelity is at its purest, some Johnny Cash selections given plenty of room to breathe. There’s no loss of balance between elements and this DTS-HD effort has enough spunk to entertain.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

A making-of kick starts a series of extras with 25-minutes of familiar if detailed anecdotes, avoiding the plague of self-promotion or gratification. Cataleya’s Journey features Saldana discussing her character and the dramatic portions of the narrative. Assassins, as simply titled as something can be, is all characters, all the time. Training a Killer details the fight styles, or lack thereof, and Take the Ride soaks in the multi-country locales. Together, everything meshes into about an hour of content. Sony trailers and BD-Live access are left.

Movie ★★★★☆