Review: Unintentionally Campy ‘Colombiana’ Should Be Titled ‘Panty Assassin’

Zoe Saldana’s pistol-packing angel of vengeance inspires rounds and rounds of unintentional laughs

Don’t be too surprised this Halloween if you see lots of drag queens wearing Zoe Saldana wigs and packing plastic pistols — “Colombiana” is the kind of unintentionally hilarious misfire that spawns midnight-movie screenings and cocktail-fueled DVD parties.

Co-writer and co-producer Luc Besson tries a new spin on his tried-and-true “La Femme Nikita” formula, but the results are so clumsy and over-the-top that they should have just called the movie “Panty Assassin” and played the whole thing for laughs.

Because laughter is the only way to respond to material this ridiculous.

We first meet Saldana’s lethal Cataleya as a young girl (played by Amandla Stenberg), who sees her parents slaughtered in front of her at the command of evil drug kingpin Don Luis (Beto Benites). She escapes Colombia and comes to Chicago, where she’s taken in by her uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis) — the vengeance-obsessed Cataleya wants to learn how to be a killer, but Emilio insists she go to school first.

Emilio makes his point in this argument, mind you, by firing several rounds into a moving car and causing it to crash. In broad daylight. In front of dozens of witnesses. But after Cataleya understands that she needs to know how the world works before she shoots everyone in it, they walk home, ignored by those same witnesses and by the cops who arrive on the scene.

This comes after the part where the young girl somehow becomes a ninja who can outrun a team of killers in the slums of Bogota. And after she gives someone in the U.S. embassy a microchip that her father gave her, loaded with screens of numbers that are never explained but are apparently very important. Of course, this is a movie where none of the filmmakers seem to understand how computers or newspapers work, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We skip forward 15 years, and the grown-up Cataleya is a brilliant hired assassin, even though most of her kills and her escapes rely rather heavily on lucky guesses. She draws the rare cataleya orchid on her victims’ chests in the hopes of sending a message to Don Luis, and it’s only after 22 murders that the FBI starts publicizing this fact. (The feds aren’t presented as the sharpest knives in the drawer — when looking at a pool of possible killers, which includes Cataleya, Special Agent Ross (Lennie James) bellows, “We’re not looking for a woman! It isn’t possible!”)

And then there’s the Chicago precinct cop with the French accent, and the CIA agent with a British accent, and the overbearingly obvious score by Nathaniel Mechaly, and the hand-to-hand combat sequence that somehow combines jittery editing and toothbrushes as weapons.

Not to mention those fakey-looking newspapers, seemingly printed on fax paper with European punctuation marks; they would have been laughed off the set of an Ed Wood movie.

If you’re starved for giggles in this late-summer season, you could do worse than the supremely silly “Colombiana.” Saldana’s supporting turns in “Avatar” and “Star Trek” suggest that she’s a female action star in the making, but not in a movie this ludicrous.