Zoe Saldana, coming off a loose and suitably gritty B-movie turn in The Losers, stars here as a highly efficient assassin with a deep debt of vengeance to repay. Luc Besson (the writer-producer behind The Professional, The Transporter franchise and Taken) and director Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3) would seem to be the perfect team to propel Saldana to new action-femme highs.
Having proven her mettle in Avatar (with performance chops lacking from the stripped-down work of Mila Jovovich in the Resident Evil series or even Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Salt) with that movie’s dependence on the motion-capture accouterments necessary to make audiences believe in long blue natives, Saldana has boarded a fast-track train to action heroine status that could transform her into a young, soulful Pam Grier (a la Jackie Brown rather than the early Blaxploitation era bad mamma jammas). Which is a path that would seem unlikely in Hollywood, but she needs to prove capable of holding the fort on her own and, unfortunately, Columbiana isn’t the vehicle to get her there.
Megaton and Besson have assembled a curiously atrophied muscle car, a Tony Scott homage that lacks the splash and dash of his recent fever dreams like Domino or Man on Fire, easily the best iterations of his scorched-earth approach to revenge fantasies. So, we will have to wait to see if Saldana’s next thrill ride gets her closer to the promised land. Grade: D+