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Over at New York Magazine, Kyle Buchanan makes a good point about the wasting away of female action stars, most recently manifested by Zoe Saldana in Colombiana. As he puts it, "Saldana's a talented actress who can sell ferocity with her face, but her slender arms could snap in two if a stuntman grabbed her the wrong way, and when she roundhouse kicks an assailant, Saldana looks like a spider doing a cartwheel."

Yup.

The thing is, that whole slender-spider thing doesn't have to be an action movie dealbreaker on the suspension-of-disbelief front. Case in point: the early-on set piece in which Saldana's character busts into a prison so that she can take out one of the inmates. It's a fun scene, and what's more, it demands a character who is lithe and lissome and limber and all the rest of those things. Otherwise, she's never going to be able to slip through the gap between those fan blades:

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I mean, it makes sense. If you're not built like Captain America, you get the job done with stealth and acrobatics instead of brute force. And for a while, the film seems to get that. But then, of course, we come to the climax, when the brain clicks to "off" and instead of ingenious infiltration, we get boilerplate boom-boom kickassery. Culminating, alas, in a bathroom fight that includes what looks an awful lot like a junior-high style towel-snapping contest. (It's tough to tell, what with all the jittery film effects - inserted, no doubt, to help hide the rampant silliness.)

Hmph. I'll stop now, but I'm with Buchanan: it ought to be possible to make a badass female action star without pretending that someone weighing 98 pounds can throw a punch that would cold-cock The Rock. Colombiana director Luc Besson might do well to recall a little film he made back in the day called La Femme Nikita. Just a thought.

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