Colombiana and Our Idiot Brother

Zoe Saldana goes into action, Paul Rudd goes with the flow.

Colombiana

There’s been the usual ration of trashy films this summer—Green Lantern and Cowboys & Aliens limp instantly to mind—and now, at the gasping end of August, we have Colombiana, which is pure trash, boldly undiluted. The movie is genre action at its most generic, a thick pudding of all the usual rooftop chases, martial-artsy slap-ups, and improbably huge weaponry. And with the minimally expressive Zoe Saldana cast as the picture’s improbable thug-whomper, it’s a more than usually tedious exercise. But writer-producer Luc Besson and his directorial protégé, the deliciously monikered Olivier Megaton, clearly have their eyes on the international action market, and by now only a fool would question their expertise.

The story begins in 1992, in the Colombian drug capital of Bogotá, with a desperate gangster being mowed down by rival mobsters at the behest of a crime lord named Don Luis (Beto Benites). Present at this bullet-riddled scene is the gangster’s daughter, Cataleya (precociously well-played by Amadla Stenberg), who appears to be about 12 years old. She is clutching a period ROM cartridge and a safe-haven address in the States passed on by her father before he met his bloody end. After escaping a herd of heavily armed bad guys across the aforementioned rooftops, Cataleya makes her way to an intel officer at the local U.S. embassy, turns over the computer cartridge—which is loaded with international-crime info—and is put on a plane to Miami for further CIA examination. Upon arrival, though, she slips away from her Agency minder and hops a bus to Chicago, where she finds refuge with her Uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis, occasionally channeling Tony Montana), who is likewise a gangster. She tells Emilio she wants to become a killer, and eventually hunt down Don Luis. Okay, why not.

Cataleya quickly sprouts into Saldana, whose performance inclines heavily toward introspective brooding and standard dead-eyed menace. Under Emilio’s tutelage, the girl has in fact become a rub-out specialist, and over the course of several assignments we see her terminating a succession of Don Luis’ scumbags in the usual madly inventive ways. (The most interesting is a complicated jailhouse take-down involving a crucial coffee spoon and the sudden appearance of a sleek catsuit.) Before long, Don Luis begins to divine Cataleya’s lethal objective, which sets up an ultimate confrontation heavy with inevitability. All of this despite the best efforts of a dogged FBI agent (Lennie James) to bring Cataleya to justice, and the devotion of a largely irrelevant boyfriend (Michael Vartan) who adores this mysterious woman without knowing a single thing about her.   

The movie is a fiesta of implausibilities. Is it really possible to get away with being fingerprinted by police without their noticing the special latex gloves you’re wearing to frustrate identification? Has anyone ever actually stabbed an attacker with a pistol magazine? And how likely is it that someone could swim through a pool patrolled by sharks (a strained Thunderball lift) without drawing even the casual attention of said predators? I don’t know, and I doubt the filmmakers even cared. This heedless mediocrity muffles our engagement with the story—or it muffled mine. But the pure-action audience at whom the film is aimed might not care. In the end, I suspect, the box-office judgment will be entirely theirs.

Our Idiot Brother

Here we have a light comedy filled with funny moments and likable actors, all of them working, unfortunately, in the service of a story that’s even more simple-minded than its titular protagonist.  

Paul Rudd is Ned, a bearded hippie leftover of little ambition who, in his mid-thirties, works on a Long Island organic farm owned by his sourpuss girlfriend, Janet (Kathryn Hahn). Ned is a sunny Candide with an unshakable belief in the goodness of human nature, which makes him a natural patsy—not that he minds. And since he cannot tell a lie, he’s a loose cannon in a world of everyday deceit. After unwisely gifting a uniformed cop with an ounce of pot, Ned finds himself spending eight months in jail. Upon release, he learns that Janet has thrown him over for a doofus named Billy (T.J. Miller, most convincing in the role). Now he’s homeless.

Ned’s mom (Shirley Knight) takes him in for a while, but then he starts seeking shelter with one after another of his three sisters: Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), a high-strung writer working on her first big magazine story; Liz (Emily Mortimer), a frowzy housewife married to an abrasive English filmmaker (Steve Coogan); and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), a standup comic (or something) who lives happily with her lesbian girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones). Into each of these lives Ned brings unwitting chaos, innocently blurting out secrets he’s learned and refusing to be pressured into even the most urgently required deception.

The central weakness of the story is its simplistic message. The key characters dismiss Ned as an idiot, but in the end realize that it is they who are really screwed up, and that they must—and do—change. This is a little too tidy to be especially compelling, no matter how ably director Jesse Peretz keeps things ambling along.

Still, Rudd is wonderfully appealing here. His Ned may be a simpleton to everyone around him, but we never see him that way. It’s an especially adroit comic performance, and it gives this small-scaled film a distinctive, genial glow.

Kurt Loder is a writer living in New York. His third book, a collection of film reviews called The Good, the Bad and the Godawful, will be out on November 8th from St. Martin’s Press. Follow him on Twitter at kurt_loder.


Find this and hundreds of other interesting books at the Reason Shop, powered by Amazon.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • PantsFan||

    The central weakness of the story is its simplistic message.
    This is obvious from the advert being shown on the telly

  • Sudden||

    Ah, Paul Rudd. The world's second greatest Chiefs fan. Now if only he would start showing up to all their home games as a modern day Jack Nicholas.

  • Devil Inchoate||

    Jack who?

  • Libertarian Snuff Films, Inc.||

    Block implies a libertarian owner of a slave-mom bitch can whip her, without it being deemed assault and battery. Can a libertarian Master make libertarian snuff films too? Big market out there.

    MASTER: Did you once own your body, bitch?
    SLAVE MOM: Yes, Master.
    MASTER: And what can you do with property you own?
    SLAVE MOM: Sell it?
    MASTER: That's right, and now I own you. What can an owner do with any property?
    SLAVE MOM: Dispose of it?

    He'd like more than anything else to boss me around, and then whip me every time I displeased him....Slave-master Rafe would never shell out the cold cash if, after he paid, I could haul him into court on assault and battery charges when he whipped me.

    Voluntary Slave Contracts
    by Walter Block
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block134.html

  • ||

    So?

  • ||

    Don't. We put him on a diet.

  • Intellectual Bankruptcy||

    Rather, you've declared intellectual bankruptcy by being unable to give a serious answer to his inquiry.

    So, it seems he did put you howling monkeys on a diet. At least you've shut up if all you can do is hurl invectives and shit his way.

  • ||

    What, you want to know if, in libertarian principle, it is acceptable for two parties to enter into a mutually agreed upon contract in which one party allows violence to be done to the other?

    Answer: yes.

    Anymore stupid questions?

  • White Indian||

    Hey, let's put a contract on somebody's life.

    And you call me stupid, Sy?

    Libertarians = Propertarian Mafia.

    You ain't worth the afterbirth dripping from your mamma's old address.

  • ||

    Reading comprehension a little hard for you, dipshit?

  • seguin||

    A written language is part of civilization man...don't bring him down, white man!

  • ||

    I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, HitPenny.çom

  • Hank||

    How does your girlfriend know she loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera if "there [sic] arriving tomorrow by UPS"?

    Also, go fuck yourself.

  • Snowbee||

    Hmm, I don't believe that the c-cedilla has been integrated into URLs yet. Something leads me to believe that you maaaaay be trying to pull one over on us.

  • Fluffy||

    A lot of people say Olivier Megatron is great, but I tend to prefer the work of Barrymore Optimus Prime.

  • ||

    Neither can hold a candle to Calculon.

  • seguin||

    Or Alec Baldwin.

    But they're all better than human actors.

  • Fluffy||

    Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), a standup comic (or something) who lives happily with her lesbian girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones).

    I would like to see a movie that explored this relationship more.

  • ||

    Bah, beat me to the punch.

    That'll teach me to hurricane prep at Home Depot.

  • Trespassers W||

    I'll be in my bunk.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    The "Scenery-Chewing Gay Friend" seems to be popping up a lot more in movies these days.

    And Rupert Everett thought he'd never leave an acting legacy.

  • Bill||

    Don't you mean carpet-chewing?

  • seguin||

    The first thing I thought of when I saw 'Scenery Chewing' was Tony Robbins' face. Is that normal?

  • ||

    A cross between a tomato and an onion? Is that just Ned being an idiot, or do the writers actually think such a thing could be possible?

  • MRK||

    [Saldana] has in fact become a rub-out specialist

    Indeed.

  • A Serious Man||

    I've always thought that Paul Rudd was a funnier version of Ben Stiller: able to play both the straight man and the idiot equally well.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Rudd's a lot less of a ham than Stiller; hence he's funnier.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Rudd subtly dominates.

  • A girl||

    Rudd is adorable. Stiller is icky-poo. *retches*

  • ||

    As Vince Mancini said of Colombiana: She’s a hot chick, and she’s got a gun! I’m going to take my flask to this screening and take a big swig every time she kills a dude who outweighs her by 150 pounds with her bare hands.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "genre action at its most generic, a thick pudding of all the usual rooftop chases, martial-artsy slap-ups, and improbably huge weaponry."

    So where is it playing? So I can avoid it, of course.

  • ||

    The most interesting is a complicated jailhouse take-down involving a crucial coffee spoon and the sudden appearance of a sleek catsuit.

    The sudden disappearance of said catsuit would have made it even more interesting, I'm sure.

  • ChrisO||

    It's been an especially crappy summer for movies. And that's saying a lot, considering that most summers are full of crappy movies.

  • Paul||

    whose performance inclines heavily toward introspective brooding and standard dead-eyed menace.

    Sounds like my ex-wife.

  • ||

    My wife wants me to take her to the Paul Rudd movie this weekend. Luckily, we're hitting the bar first.

  • ||

    Needs more Rashida Jones. Can't get enough of her.

  • Blue sky||

    This is a good movie, the story of continuity, just looked at me, and I like the film is a great art. .

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement