I would contend that almost any story is a voyage – often a mental one, if not always – and not seldom expressed in a physical one, where the protagonists move from one place to the next as a mirror to their mental journey in which they travel from one state to the other. Just some movies I can name are obvious ones like The Lord of the Rings or Saving Private Ryan. There are less obvious ones like The Third man or the Edge of Tomorrow. And there are even reversed ones like were the main characters are in one place in the way of others travelling.
While the reason for the journey is actually not the most important part of the journey, it is important enough as it can even have a profound influence due to the state of mind a person is in when the journey starts. Colombiana is a movie where the main protagonist Cataleya is confronted by the violent deaths of her parents. Her state of being is one of assumed innocence: as a nine year old child she sits at the kitchen table of her home, dressed in a neath clean black and white school uniform as violence erupts around her. With a inward turned gaze in her big doe brown eyes she faces the main henchman, who walks up to her, sit downs and talks to her. It is almost a Tarantino moment.
Almost, as it isn’t. For Megaton shows himself to be the lesser of directors by ruining it. Had he started out with this moment it might have captured some of the tension and even made the next scene tolerable. The one in which the nine year old drives a knife through the bad guys hand into the table underneath, then runs through the house, jumps through a small window and descends several storeys while being chased by goons emptying their guns at her.
What young kid could keep her wits to pull off well considered actions after having experienced the mental shock of her parents deaths, those that triggers her screams for revenge? Only a seriously mentally disturbed one can: a psychopath that has no feelings. So was this presumable innocent child, about to turn into a vengeful assassin, already a cold hearted murderer to start with? Was she already a natural born killer?
It would have worked if that had been born out in the next part of the movie. We fastforward fifteen years after Cataleya has found shelter with her uncle and demanded to be turned into an angel of death by him. Apparently he has not only the means to provide her with the necessary skills and equipment, but also the will, as is born out by the ludicrous scene in which he pulls out a gun and shoots at random people and cars on a crossing to make the point that anyone can shoot anyone at random, but you can’t get away with it. Which he proceeds to do next as he walks out while the police cars drive past. What message that conveys.
If the next part of the story would have told the journey of Cataleya’s demise as psychopath killer- but what psychopath would require the excuse for killing of deaths that occured 15 years ago- or ascension(or downfall) as a human being struggling to get away from her maimed past, it would have been a better movie. It reminds me of the movie Hannah, where Hannah is trained by her father to be that killer Cataleya’s is supposed to be, but while Hannah starts to change when confronted by the interaction with ‘normal’ humans, Cataleya doesn’t: she just has sex with them. For the four ‘intimate’ moments that she has with her lover has two with mainly sex in them. That is not character development, that is pandering to the male audience.
Megaton drops the ball twice. For without focusing on Cataleya as a person struggling with what she has become, he has to focus on the mayhem. But this is done is such a haphazard manner that the result is silly. In fact it commits the grievous sin of showing the director at work. For when Cataleya turns a corner and doesn’t run into a guard once or twice we might say that is sheer luck but if she does it all the time, including opening and closing grates just in time, fitting through ventilation shafts with ease and opening them without a hitch, this is the script being laid bare. That she can do the impossible is because the director wants her to, not because of luck or skill. And this makes a director a weak one. No good magician, and that is what a director is, shows how his tricks work: it takes the magic away.
Megaton develops nothing. Cataleya’s journey is rushed. Her targets are indistinct targets she and we could care less about, unlike the ones the Bride kills in Kill Bill, another avenging angel. And her skills are based on sheer luck, impossible powers and the stupidity of her opponents.
This movie has virtually nothing to show for it, except for one scene, the ones with the sharks, the acting of Saldana and James who do the best they can with a feeble script, and the song at the end: ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash. But that masterpiece can’t save this movie: it only underscores how weak it actually is.