Director: Oliver Megaton
Cast: Zoe Saldana, Jordi Molla, Lennie James, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis
Synopsis: At the age of 9, Cataleya Restrepo witnesses her parents murdered by the criminals that he betrayed. She flees to America where she is trained by her uncle to be an assassin. She uses these skills to obtain her revenge.
Despite his name not being in the top line of this review, this is in many ways a Luc Besson film. He both wrote and produced the piece, and there are certain similarities between this film and his other assassin features, Nikita and The Professional. Indeed, if he had directed this film it would be considered by many to form a loose trilogy. Besson did not direct, however, and as such, this film suffers in comparison to its predecessors.
It is not that the film does not work. There are some brilliantly established scenes. But as effective as some of these scenes are, they are partnered with scenes that are obtuse and obvious. To illustrate this point, the character establishing moments for Cataleya are fantastic, with a nine-year-old girl on the run from those that killed her parents with the vital data they needed in her possession. Yet this was only after an opening dialogue between her father and a mob boss backed by Ave Maria. This piece of music is so cliché that it formed the backbone of a great scene in Modern Family, such that its use here is too obvious and put me on the wrong foot from the opening credits.
It is unfortunate, as the story and the acting here do have a lot of merit. Saldana is increasingly entering the lime-light, and here she shows quite a range (and a great deal of athleticism) throughout. She is ably supported, but in the end this is definitely her film. The one misstep in casting was Alias’ Michael Vartan. Perhaps this is due to him being part ion the other clearly misguided step of the film, the romantic subplot. It exists on its own in the film, and has no bearing on the main story. In short, it is a distraction and seems only to be an excuse to see Saldana in her underwear. Yes she looks great in underwear, but whatever character development it provides is minimal.
The action sequences are the film’s true visual strength. Cataleya is superb at what she does, absolutely flawless in planning and technique. Yet here again is a film flaw. Given she is so brilliant, only one of two endings can occur. A surprise failure, which would completely be at odds with her level of talent, or a victory after a final, bloody fight. It is like Superman without Kryptonite. Without a weakness, it can be harder to relate to the plight of the antagonist.
I am bringing up a lot of criticisms, and it may seem I did not enjoy the film. However, I did enjoy it for the elements that worked. I enjoyed it for the choreography of the fight scenes and the imaginative ways in which Cataleya infiltrates the strongholds of her prey. I enjoyed it for the very Besson elements. In the end, I guess I just wish Besson had directed it also, and made a true young female assassin trilogy. I doubt I will be alone in that assessment!
3 stars out of 5