(director: Olivier Megaton; screenwriters: Robert Mark Kamen/Luc Besson; cinematographer: Romain Lacourbas; editor: Camille Delamarre; music: Nathaniel Mechaly; cast: Zoe Saldana (Cataleya), Amandla Stenberg (young Cataleya), Lennie James (Agent Ross), Michael Vartan (Danny Delanay), Jordi Mollà (Marco), Cliff Curtis (Emilio Restrepo); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Luc Besson/Ariel Zeitoun; Sony Pictures 2011)
“Leaves us not even a second of viewing time that is believable.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The hard-edged French-born action director Olivier Megaton (“Transporter 3″/”Exit”) goes for broke in this absurd action-thriller and misses by a mile. It’s a thriller that leaves us not even a second of viewing time that is believable. The story is a hogwash revenge tale about a 9-year-old girl (Amandla Stenberg, who is 13) in Bogota, Colombia, who witnesses her hit-man father and her family executed by a ruthless drug cartel and vows pay back when she grows up. The characters are all cardboard (except for the heroine as a kid) and the idea of an invincible female cold-blooded avenging assassin, a one-man army, is conveyed in a silly and unconvincing manner. Co-writer and co-producer Luc Besson has made a name for himself featuring female assassins, and does so here by doubling down on his heroine’s killing ability. But this is one of his weak films, lacking much warmth, pathos and a slickness needed to keep it entertaining.
After the hit, the little Cataleya (named after a local flower) lives secretly with her drug dealing gangster Uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis) and his family in Chicago. As an adult Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) becomes a contract assassin for Uncle Emilio. But she’s obsessed with her need for revenge, and sends her ‘calling card’ by brutally killing 23 cartel members before the story is aired in the newspapers. This gets both the gang’s attention and the CIA, who hides the cartel in New Orleans on the Witness Protection Program for squealing. It also gets the attention of FBI agent Ross (Lennie James), who tracks her down through a photo lifted from her innocent nice guy boyfriend Danny’s (Michael Vartan) cell phone. But she turns the tables on the agent and forces him to get the corrupt CIA agent to give up the cartel’s location or have his family wiped out.
The trashy film is humorless and pretentious, as it makes no effort to be real (which might be funny in a way it never intended, as it ends up more watchable than it has a right to be).
The film’s main appeal should be for the easy to please viewers who salivate over sensitive sexy chicks in skimpy outfits, who carry around a bazooka when looking for action.
REVIEWED ON 5/13/2020 GRADE: C