The trailers and promos for Everly make it look like a standard action revenge thriller, not far removed from the surprise hit of last fall, John Wick. The comparison is easy to make. Both films feature a star who hasn’t had much luck in recent years attempting to get back into the public’s good graces by kicking ass and taking names. Both films have Asian influences, little in the way of plot besides bad guys getting killed, and a well deserved R rating. But the comparison ends there. Everly is far too batshit crazy to be compared to John Wick. It’s more like the bastard love child of Ichi the Killer and Thriller: They Call Her One-Eye. If both of those titles mean nothing to you, then Everly might not be your cup of tea. Go see Sponge Bob instead.
Directed by Long Island native Joe Lynch and starring Salma Hayek, Everly wastes no time getting to the bloodshed. Hell, it makes John Wick look like a meditative drama in that regard. We start on a black screen as we hear the sounds of a woman being tortured. The first character we see is Hayek’s Everly as she drags herself into her bathroom, fishes a gun out of the toilet, and contemplates suicide. She decides against it however and instead kills all the men in her apartment who have been torturing her. Much better choice. This gif sums up the action far better than I can.
AND WE’RE OFF! Keep in mind, this occurs in the movie’s first two minutes. The opening scene gives us barely a taste of the carnage to come but it sets the tone right away: we’re in store for a gleefully violent genre picture with energy and humor to spare. The movie quickly reveals that Everly is the kept woman of an all powerful Yakuza boss named Taiko. She was going to turn state’s evidence against him and upon discovery of her betrayal, he decided to have her killed. Trouble is, Everly ain’t going down without a fight and before the night is over she will face down a barrage of assassins, including a bunch of vengeful hookers, yakuza henchman, murderous doormen, a ravenous dog, and an unbelievably creepy pair of killers known as The Sadist and The Masochist.
It’s a simple premise and one that Lynch milks for all it’s worth. He and his co-writer Yale Hannon keep drawing lines in the sand only to maliciously jump over them. Take the way Everly dispatches some goons who come up in the elevator. You watch what she does, squeal with glee, and then say to yourself, “well that’s it, there’s no way they can top that!” Next thing you know there’s a machete wielding, half-naked man running around her apartment accompanied by 4 weirdoes in kabuki masks. It’s that kind of movie.
Lynch is a filmmaker who wears his influences on his sleeve and this is occasionally a detriment. He apes one particular camera sequence from Tarantino and it serves no purpose other than to illustrate that he can do it. When it comes to his other influences though, he is able to both pay tribute and put his own spin on things. His main source of inspiration seems to have been the insane Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike, who gave us Audition, 13 Assassins, and the aforementioned Ichi the Killer. Miike takes violence to absurdly high levels but usually with the intention of disturbing his audience. Lynch is more interested in amusing his audience but that doesn’t stop him from creating some of the goriest set pieces of the year. He’s a little like pre-Rings Peter Jackson that way and one sequence towards the end reminded me (fondly) of Dead Alive. I don’t want to spoil the sick fun so I’ll just use a terrible, overused writing cliché and say that this movie gives new meaning to the term “stomach acid”.
Lynch is helped greatly by Hayek, who is game for whatever crazy shit he throws at her. She goes from being a frightened woman with hardly a clue how to handle a weapon into a deadly killing machine. And the script doesn’t exactly illustrate how she suddenly becomes so good at murdering folks; it’s just one of those things you’re supposed to accept but Hayek makes us believe it. She’s also dryly funny, like in the scene where she casually flips off the bleeding gang member on her couch after he warns her not to go out into the hallway. Her main goal is not only to keep herself alive but to keep her mother and young daughter alive. For inexplicable reasons, she brings them into her apartment to protect them and the scenes between her and her mother have genuine pathos despite the absurdity of the situation they’re in. Hayek juggles tones like a pro, treating the material as drama one minute and high camp the next. She’s perfect in the role. Rumor has it Kate Hudson was originally attached to this project. I shudder to think what that would have been like.
There are some problems with Everly to be sure. It’s not a wink-wink nudge-nudge movie like Machete but there are some moments that are far too self-aware to be fully successful. Lynch doesn’t quite know how to juggle tones the same way Hayek does. At times, we’re not sure whether to laugh or scream. He also has a weakness for showing off with the camera, highlighted by an unnecessary tracking shot at the end. Still, this is a tremendous improvement over his last film, the tone deaf Knights of Badassdom, and suggests that he is a filmmaker to keep an eye on.
So Everly is not perfect and is definitely not for everybody. If you’re a fan of psychotic, deranged, blood-soaked mashups of genres and cultures then this flick is right up your alley. It’s not going to reinvent the wheel though or change the face of the action genre. It’s February people. I work with what Hollywood gives me.
Everly is currently available to rent on ITunes, Amazon and On Demand and will hit theaters February 27th.