Just Saw Columbiana Last Night

Spoilers ahead, though Columbiana is an older movie:

Colombiana has a relatively standardized plot: professional hitter uses killing skills to take out the people who hurt the hitter’s loved ones. It’s gender-twisted, so the hitter is a woman and the women in refrigerators are actually men in refrigerators…well, mostly. The bad guys kill a lot of people, but her dad is the one that provides her initial motivation and a lot of important psychological background.

It’s also twisted up in another couple of ways: the hitter is actually still in the business. This is no coming-out-of-retirement story. The hitter is in her prime for the entirety of the movie, save some childhood background scenes. The other thing that was interesting to me as an artistic choice – and pleasing to me as a viewer – was the way that more attention was paid to details that are traditionally more emphasized in heist movies. Rather than dwelling on the violence, there’s a long section of the movie that focuses on her planning and creativity and acting skills.

There are some almost-obvious references back to things in her childhood among her actions as an adult. It wasn’t overdone, so it struck me as a way of connecting the adult character (obviously played by a different actor) with the child character, who otherwise might be seen as very disconnected from the woman she becomes.

Perhaps the best part of the hitter’s characterization is that while they make you wonder a couple of times if they’re going for the hitter-with-a-heart-of-gold stereotype, she turns out not to be contemplating the choices you might guess she’s contemplating (or if she did, she rejected them). No, to accomplish what she wants to accomplish, she uses what she knows: threats and violence. No, the movies doesn’t dwell on them, but yes, those are the tactics that are true to the character, and she’s going to use them.

This isn’t Citizen Kane, but it was a very distracting way to spend an evening alone in the big city. If you find that you (at least sometimes) enjoy an action movie and you appreciate seeing a woman star in a movie once in a while, try Columbiana. It’s on Netflix, which is where I accessed it. I found it almost as good as Salt or The Professional, two very good movies that each shared elements with Columbiana. In fact, I haven’t seen either of those movies in a long time, but IIRC, taking 1/2 of Salt and 1/2 of The Professional, you could very well end up with something nearly identical to Columbiana. I wonder if those movies played any role in influencing the story and style of this one?

Yes, that’s really it: just a boring semi-spoilered movie review. I’ll get back to penis jokes and feminist history soon enough, I’m sure.



  1. says

    Sounds worth checking out; I’ve queued it up.

    I love the myth of the Hollywood hitter: someone so professional and polished, well-equipped and careful in their planning, and they still miss pretty much all of the time. And, I assume that such people either do not exist, or are simply so good they never get caught if they do. My money is on option #1, because we rarely hear about people getting killed with a long rifle-shot, or poisoned with polonium-209 or whatever. It happens. But as Bruce Schneier likes to point out: it’s rare enough to be news-worthy, which means it’s pretty rare.

    The preparation scenes are always hugely fun for me; they have to be plausible but no so creative as to be too easy. I always wanted to see a movie about a hitter who never used the same technique twice and was good at causing ‘accidents.’ Feeling a bit accident-prone lately? It may be that an assassin just tried and failed to kill you several times.

  2. suttkus says

    Columbiana and The Professional share Luc Besson as a creative force, of course.

  3. Raucous Indignation says

    I will definitely see it when it comes to the ttle big screen across from my spot on the couch!

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