The year is 1992 in Bogota, Columbia and a young girl named Cataleya Restrepo (Amandia Stenberg) has just witnessed the death of her parents. Unable to flee their home in time before Marco (Jordi Molla) under the command of Don Luis (Beto Benites) arrives to murder them in a bloody shoot out her father Fabio (Jesse Borrego) hands her a computer chip, a business card and an address in Chicago telling her to find her way there for help. Moments later the girl’s parents Fabio and Alicia (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) are gunned down.
Sitting at the kitchen table wearing the orchid necklace given to her from her parent, Cataleya is approached by their killer, Marco, but the young girl has more fight in her than one would have thought. A knife to the hand and a jump from a window and Cataleya leads the killers on a wild chase throughout the city soon escaping them and finding her way to the U.S. Embassy. Eventually held under the care of the CIA this young girl once again eludes her adult chaperones, this time the U.S. authorities and makes her way to Chicago.
There she finds her Uncle Emilio Restrepo and family where she spends the next several years of her life sleeping in her dead cousins bedroom lined with posters of movie gangsters like “Scarface” and attending school. If you asked Cataleya what she wanted to be when she grew up she would have told you a warrior princess like Xena but now she wishes to be a killer and asks her uncle for his help.
Fifteen years later, Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) has grown up and is working for her uncle has a hit man or woman in her case but in her spare time she has become a murdering vigilante out for revenge against the men that had murdered her parents. Twenty two murders in the last four years and soon to be twenty three, Agent Ross (Lennie James) with the FBI is working to bring this man, so they think a male, which leaves the same lipstick M.O. on the victims to justice. Working her wardrobe and moves like that of Cat woman the beautiful Cataleya has murdered yet another man on her list right under the noses of the police.
In her hidden garage where she keeps her identities she has two huge dogs guarding her secrets that will shred man or beast at the slightest command by Cataleya to “eat”. Her next target turns into a bit of media levity with the title stating “Sharks eat Shark” as her rampage to ultimately find and kill Luis continues. A hit woman for her Uncle and a murdering savage in her spare time she finds solstice in the arms of Danny Delanay (Michael Vartan). Interesting how the story revolves around one tough ass kicking female killer and the man playing a more meek and subdued role as her artist boyfriend is Vartan. Not your typical action leading actor since most are men except for Jolie who has a market for guns and martial arts but Saldana not only looks good but can play rough just like all the boys in the criminal world.
Agent Ross hot on her trail, her secretive life begins to start crashing down for her and her family when Danny’s friend Ryan (Billy Slaughter) texts Cataleya’s picture to a friend at a police department to run a background check since she never likes to talk about herself leaving Danny blind about her past and present. Soon her world begins to crash fast as Agent Ross and his men raid her apartment in hopes of finding her, leaving her once again on the run. Interesting the use of animals in this story, the dogs, sharks and the scene in which she opens the cage door for her finch to escape possible death. In the end, involving some manipulation and keen athletic skills her target has been identified and she moves in for the kill, now with even more reason to murder the lives within the walls of 867 Magnolia Terrace. Thankfully at the climax of the story the two dogs have a nice sizable Columbian meal and Cataleya calls Danny from a pay phone to hear the words she has longed to hear. Ironic on the back of the pay phone the director hung a picture of a cat that read “Reward, Lost Cat” on it. So will Cataleya ever find her way as she runs from the police and the life she’s forever known? I’m sure we may find out in the follow up story of death by assassination.
The film is not much different than many other action stories other than the fact that the lead is a sexy actress known as Zoe Saldana. This in itself makes the film a bit different by character at least. The writing is well done, accompanied many times by a nice array of music but it is the fight and shoot out scenes that make this movie punch. Physical battles between characters, explosions and shootouts make this film worthy of a male audience even though it is led by a female actress, which may help fill some seats by the woman demographic.
Saldana does a terrific job maintaining her character as an assassin out for revenge of the death of her parents. She controls the scenes that she is in and can definitely physically maintain her action status to many of the guys in Hollywood. Although at times especially in the beginning of the film she reminded me of Halle Berry in Cat Woman. Vartan doesn’t have a huge part but does a nice job as the clueless boyfriend. Senberg can also hold her own playing a young Columbian girl on the run for her life. Curtis is very strong and perfect for the role of the uncle with a tough outer shell but a soft inner spirit. Molla’s character out to protect his boss Luis is sure to turn even more heads in Hollywood since he played a very believable character. Benites although he had a small part did a nice job playing rough when needed yet meek when cornered. Agent Ross (James) thankfully played a strong role and not that of one demonstrating pure stupidity. When the going gets tough Agent Ross gets going. Overall this film will entertain, excite and titillate your senses leaving you to rout for the bag guy in this case woman. Of course the dogs were depicted in a somewhat cliché light, as were the sharks but it was the little finch that I hope made it out before the blast. I’m not expecting “Columbiana” to blast a hole in the box office but it will command an audience for a few weeks before life on DVD. Written and actually enjoyed with two paws by Jon Patch.