2015 - 92 minutes
Directed by: Joe Lynch
Written by: Yale Hannon
Starring: Salma Hayek, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Jennifer Blanc, Akie Kotabet, Laura Cepeda, Aisha Ayamah
Single location action movies are inherently problematic. For starters, suspension of disbelief must be increased exponentially as waves of baddies are mowed down by a hero that wiggles out of impossible situations where they’re confined and grossly outnumbered. It’s also exceedingly difficult to keep forward momentum and not make the action feel bland and repetitive. The ability to sidestep those issues is what makes the great cramped actioners, like Die Hard and Dredd, stand out.
Everly is bland, repetitive, and muddled in addition to being implausible. The kitchen sink approach from writer Yale Hannon and director Joe Lynch makes the movie feel like a collection of fake exploitation movie trailers from Grindhouse rather than a cohesive crazy ride. It’s a heroine’s journey that goes absolutely nowhere.
Salma Hayek is Everly, a sex slave who’s spent four years locked up in a gangster’s New York loft. After being brutally assaulted, and buoyed by her hopes of escaping with the help of a police detective, she fights back and kills her attackers. Before fleeing with the bag of cash hidden under the floorboards and reuniting with her mother Edith (Laura Cepeda) and young daughter Maisey (Aisha Ayamah), whom she’s never met, Everly’s chief tormentor Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe) puts a price on her head. Enslaved prostitutes from throughout the apartment complex, outside assassins, and random goons wage an all-out attack to collect. Inexplicably bringing her mom and daughter into the center of the battle – explained away by some hokey proverb – Everly tries to protect her family and ultimately gain her freedom.
The exploitation setup is perfectly fine, but Everly fudges its own rules. Taiko is a yakuza boss who “owns the cops” – that line of dialogue strictly used to explain away why the authorities are never called during the meat of the mayhem. When needed however, the police and paramedics are called and arrive to assist. One of the prostitutes that shows up for blood is talked out of it only so she can factor into the plot later. Goons guarding the apartment building could easily pool their (predictably limited) brainpower to eradicate this one woman, but alternate between hanging out in the lobby and heading up to the loft one by one to be dispatched in various bloody ways.
A moment where one unfortunate henchman is blasted back into an elevator, blocking his cohorts’ exit before a grenade blows them all up is a bit of inspired lunacy, but those moments are few and far between as Everly grinds its gears. Most scenes of carnage do little to mask their obvious influences and do nothing to elevate the material. Lynch often channels Robert Rodriguez, and unfortunately the Rodriguez that helmed a recent spate of uninspired sequels instead of the spirted director of the 90s through the mid-2000s.
The casting of Hayek only makes the comparison more glaring. The beautiful actress has impressive physicality, especially for pushing 50, but she’s miscast here. She actually looks too good and too composed, having trouble conveying the tortured soul that would be born from four years of slavery. The desperation of saving herself and her family never comes through, and it, just like her, is merely a cog pushing the tone to an incongruous mix of goofy and melodramatic.
Of course, despite anything that has come before, everything comes down to an ultimate battle between Everly and Taiko, many elements playing out like a live-action version of the anime sequence from Kill Bill: Vol. 1. There are women tied to beds, katana blades, and impalements through the chest from behind. There’s even a guy shot in the foot that falls, and is then shot in the head by a woman lying on the floor.
It’s all dreary dreck rather than motivated schlock. At one point a bound and helplessly trapped Everly shouts to her talky tormentor, “Just shut up and get it over with already.” My thoughts on Everly exactly.