A million years ago, Luc Besson made a big splash in the US market with a little hit called “La Femme Nikita“*.
It was a phrenetic movie (meaning that there was a lot of reliance on shaky cam) but there were some really, really awesome scenes in the film, one of which revolved around the character played by Jean Reno: A master assassin who gets called in to help clean up when the journeyman assassins screw up. Jean Reno’s character was so awesome that Luc Besson next feature film was “The Professional“.
Now, Jean Reno’s character in The Professional wasn’t the same guy as in La Femme Nikita. Besson himself said “Now maybe Jean is playing the American cousin of Victor. This time he’s more human.” So Leon was not the guy in La Femme Nikita, but was totally inspired by the guy in La Femme Nikita.
Well, in The Professional, a young Natalie Portman played Mathilda (a young girl who discovers her parents’ murders and then goes on to learn the assassin trade). She was only about 12 when the movie was made and, dang, she was awesome in it. So awesome that she got other roles in other movies and enough of them that she became this HUGE star who had a fairly well-booked calendar.
So, when Luc Besson said something to the effect of “Now I’m ready to make a movie using the grown-up character of Mathilda”, he found that Natalie Portman was booked.
That was a bit of a bump in the road but no biggie, Luc Besson figured that he could put the bare bones of the Mathilda story into a 20 minute opening scene of a movie and then jump right into the story he wanted to tell anyway.
Which brings us to Colombiana.
Colombiana is the story of a young girl who witnesses her parents’ murders who then goes on to learn the assassin trade. This one begins by being set in the drug lord corner of Colombia (they got letters about that) and then goes to all sorts of beautiful set pieces (there’s scene involving a shark tank at one point that is absolutely beautifully shot before it gets all creepily shot).
Zoe Saldana plays the protagonist. If you’ve been wishing that you could see a movie of hers where she not only features prominently, but where she wasn’t wearing 12 pounds of prosthetics, 20 pounds of CGI, or forced to carry a leaden JJ Abrams script, then you totally should watch this one. BUT you should be warned, there are several points in the movie where you will say “holy cow! She’s wearing really tight clothing there!” So maybe keep the younger ones out of the room. It’s a PG-13 but, seriously, I would have guessed that it would have been an R.
As a spiritual spin-off of a spiritual spin-off goes, it’s the best I’ve ever seen. If you like action movies and can stomach shaky cam, you should check it out as part of a shaky cam movie night starting with La Femme Nikita, going through The Professional, and ending with Colombiana.
So… what are you watching?
*(La Femme Nikita did well enough that it made it all the way through the process to getting an English version greenlit called “Point of No Return“.)
(Featured Image is “Edison’s Telephonoscope” by George du Maurier from Punch Almanack for 1879)