Over the years, Luc Besson has been consistent in the application of his depraved aesthetic. His brand of low-grade Eurotrash pulp – previously seen in The Professional, the Transporter series, Kiss of the Dragon and now Colombiana, which he co-scripted, plays out like a perverted, mutant form of noir as interpreted by a dumbass. Ambiguity has no place in Besson’s world, so the psychological complexities of the interplay between light and shadow get reduced to a simple formulation: foxy, emotionally damaged young women versus total fucking assholes.
For this depressingly familiar entry, Besson entrusts the directing reins to Olivier Megaton, whose resume includes Transporter 3 and second unit directing duties for Hitman, both staples of the lowbrow FX channel movie rotation. Dropped into the role previously occupied by femmes like Natalie Portman and Anne Parillaud is Zoe Saldana, who could be a sympathetic babe if we lived in the alternate universe where she has an ounce of personality.
In what must be Besson’s version of progressive sexual politics, Saldana’s Cataleya gets a fuck toy in the form of Michael Vartan, who either doesn’t care about any of this or truly cannot play make-believe. Vartan’s character thinks he’s in the early stages of a real relationship because he’s a sensitive artist and Cataleya shows up at his place to screw every now and again. James Bond has had deeper relationships with casino cigarette girls compared to Cataleya’s version of seduction – drop in, fuck and drop out so she can waste more of the ugly, greasy, decadent criminal element that killed her parents. (In what can only be described as a lapse into tasteful restraint, neither we nor the child Cataleya see the life-altering murders.)
Besson and Megaton’s junk food cinema doesn’t satisfy because neither one of them has any interest in building relationships – not even the hateful ones that would presumably encourage our rooting interest. In their funhouse of human grotesquery, emotions are expressed large and loud, with many of the characters looking as if they’d been cast from a circus freak show.
Megaton directs this swill like a basement-dwelling disciple of Tony Scott, what with the meaningless quick zooms and pans, multiple film stocks and lens filters that render every image in either high-contrast cold blue or muddy, yellow-orange tints. But for all its movement and visual razzle-dazzle, Colombiana is an empty spectacle. That is, unless you like your spectacles filled with sadism and stupidity.