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Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Everly


Everly is a desperately inconsistent movie. In it, Salma Hayek plays Everly, a Mexican woman kidnapped and forced into sex slavery by a major yakuza figure. He discovers that she was informing on him to the police and orders her death, but Everly turns out to be far more resourceful than he anticipated. The structure of the movie borders on a reverse The Raid: Redemption (note: It is nowhere near as good as The Raid): Wave after wave of assassin, cop, and gangster stalks Everly, holed up in her apartment, and she is forced to fight them all off. When the film leads with a group of lady assassins in fetish gear bursting in every few moments and only escalates from there, you know you're in for a movie that will, if nothing else, take no half-measures.

Blessedly, Everly avoids almost all (with one notable, awful exception) the expected pitfalls of a film like this. The action is quick, brutal, simple, and surprisingly well-shot, often with a sense of humor about how bizarre much of it is. It's also well-paced, making the film less relentless than its concept might suggest, and giving us surprisingly solid drama between all the blood and bullets. While the heart of the story is Everly's relationship with the mother and daughter who thought she was lost years ago, the film develops a far more interesting relationship early on between Everly and 'Dead Man', a mortally wounded assassin who hands out on her couch and comments on the action. Thanks to the revolving cast of bizarre killers and non-combatants the movie works in, Everly never slows down, maintaining the tension admirably between set pieces.

But the script by Yale Hannon has plenty of issues, particularly in its first couple minutes, which finds Salma Hayek naked in the bathroom, desperate and jittery in the aftermath of a brutal gang rape the film has neither the interest nor the capability of dealing with. Director Joe Lynch (Chillerama), who co-wrote, has an excellent eye for a good action shot, so while he lacks the elaborate gunplay choreography that made last year's John Wick such a delight, he makes the action gritty and forceful. Unfortunately, whenever the bad guys get too close to success, the film becomes a leering mess. In its worst moments, Everly functions far more as a horror heroine here, the film emphasizing how much brutality she can withstand in a very physical way, than she does an action lead, but there's no rhyme or reason to the movie's rapidly-shifting tone.

Still, I confess to mostly enjoying Everly. Salma Hayek anchors the fuck out of the film's action, resolved and canny while fighting from a position of relative powerlessness. As convincing as she is, however, what she really brings to the table in Everly is her ability to ground the film's more emotional content. She has a no-nonsense vulnerability reminiscent of John McClane in the original Die Hard, a comparison the film courts relentlessly and even earns once or twice. Sadly, it never builds on it, never takes the action in an unpredictable direction. And Everly is light on supporting cast by design which limits the characterization considerably, though Akie Kotabe stands out as a dying yakuza who keeps Everly company early in the film and gives her a strong personality to bounce off. Togo Igawa and Hiroyuki Watanabe fare a bit less better as the film's heavies. Igawa is creepy as hell, but his character is a bit too extreme to fit in the film, while Watanabe is mostly just your standard-issue B-movie psycho mobster.

Lynch's film has a bleak sense of humor and a few really excellent shot compositions, but Everly ultimately becomes a grim, relentless film, the kind of action that only hardcore aficionados will appreciate. Remove the sexualized violence and tone down a brief torture sequence that goes a bit too far and you could very well have a minor action classic, a B-movie Kill Bill; as is, you have an engaging but uneven action flick with more intensity than all three Expendables films combined. Like last year's similarly raw (albeit superior) female-led action flick, Raze, Everly is as rough as modern action comes, brutal and uncompromising in a way you don't often see - or often want to see. Salma Hayek kicks major ass for a film that never earns her performance.



Everly is out now on VOD services such as Amazon Instant Video, and will come out in theaters nationwide on February 27th, 2015. Written by Yale Hannon and directed by Joe Lynch, Everly stars Salma Hayek and Akie Kotabe.
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