×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Everly’

Salma Hayek plays a sex slave turned killer in this stylish but lumbering actioner.

With:
Salma Hayek, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Laura Cepeda, Togo Igawa, Akie Kotabe, Gabriella Wright, Caroline Chikezie, Jennifer Blanc, Jelena Gavrilovic, Aisha Ayamah. (English, Japanese dialogue)

A premise seemingly culled from any number of fanboy wet dreams winds up shooting mostly blanks in “Everly,” a bloody and derivative action vehicle that not even the spectacle of a scantily clad, gun-toting Salma Hayek is enough to fully sustain. Playing out in something close to real time as a desperate prostitute tries to bust her way out of a nightmarish gangster stronghold, shooting and slicing her way through hordes of Japanese yakuza, this slickly assembled exploitation-movie wankfest gets some mileage out of its star’s fully committed performance, though not enough to offset the grim, monotonous tenor of the proceedings — or the glib, fetishistic recycling of Asian thriller tropes. Hayek’s attachment will ensure ever-healthy VOD, though fewer eyeballs (to cite one of many tortured body parts) will be drawn to Radius-TWC/Dimension’s Feb. 27 theatrical release.

Director Joe Lynch (who helmed the 2013 horror-comedy “Knights of Badassdom”) and screenwriter Yale Hannon do lay out the narrative particulars with an admirable degree of economy: The movie opens with the sound of distant screams, then a nifty overhead shot of a bathroom where a naked but discreetly framed Everly (Hayek) seeks momentary refuge from her latest round of degradation — the kind she’s endured, we later learn, for the four years she’s spent imprisoned in the same apartment, forced to work as a sex slave for a powerful yakuza syndicate. From the start, then, the filmmakers court pity and mild titillation in the same breath, doing their best not to leer excessively while acknowledging the honest appeal of a beautiful woman wielding heavy artillery in little more than a slip.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Everly has chosen this moment to turn the tables on the rapists in her apartment, triggering the first eruption of cartoonishly over-the-top violence and sustaining a few flesh wounds in the process. (Most of the wounds here seem to be of the fleshy variety, given the numbing frequency with which presumed-dead attackers suddenly leap back to life, as if they’d been felled by paper cuts.) But she only succeeds in attracting the playfully sadistic attention of powerful gang leader Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe), who promises a handsome reward to any of her equally desperate prostitute neighbors who succeeds in taking her out. That tactic fails in spectacularly bloody fashion (“That’s a lot of dead whores,” an onlooker notes, a line that doesn’t get funnier with repetition). But Taiko knows the real way to get to his prey is by threatening Everly’s mother (a fine Laura Cepeda) and her young daughter (Aisha Ayamah), neither of whom she’s seen in ages, and whom she somehow persuades to make their way into the heavily guarded complex.

Confining our heroine (and much of the action) to her apartment, the layout of which is neatly conveyed by Steve Gainer’s lensing and Ondrej Nekvasil’s production design, “Everly” splits the difference between the make-it-out-alive claustrophobia of actioners like “Die Hard” and “The Raid: Redemption,” and the maternal revenge quest of Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” even if it never summons anywhere near the same tension or momentum. Like many of Tarantino’s movies (as well as Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” and last year’s Scarlett Johansson starrer “Lucy”), Lynch’s film freely samples the iconography of extreme Asian cinema, whether by having Everly do battle with armies of black-suited yakuza, or flanking her with fearsome Noh-masked ninjas while she’s being operated on by a sort of Nipponese Mengele known as the Sadist (Togo Igawa).

Along with the central presence of Hayek, that makes “Everly” one of the more diversely cast genre items to come along in a while, even if the movie’s sense of cultural appreciation has all the nuance of a meat-grinder: The exotic tropes go in one end and bloody hamburger comes out the other. Working with a strong below-the-line team, Lynch stages and shoots action with the requisite style, which is to say he can cover the walls of an apartment or an elevator shaft with arterial splatter as adequately as the next director. What he can’t do, in the end, is make sense of a protagonist whom Hayek plays as a compelling if mystifying combo of tremulous vulnerability and (unexplained) killer prowess. In a similar sense, the entire movie never coheres, asking us to fear for the life of a 5-year-old girl one minute, playing vintage holiday music over a bloodbath the next; our heroine’s name suggests a very likely nod to the Everly Brothers’ 1971 tune “Christmas Eve Can Kill You.”

Film Review: 'Everly'

Reviewed on VOD, Pasadena, Calif., Feb. 25, 2015. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 91 MIN.

Production: A Radius-TWC and Dimension Films release presented with Vega, Baby! in association with Sierra/Affinity of a Crime Scene Pictures production in association with Anonymous Content. Produced by Adam Ripp, Rob Paris, Luke Rivett, Andrew Pfeffer. Executive producers, Rizal Risjad, Ricky Budhrani, Paul Green. Co-producer, Brett Hedblom.

Crew: Directed by Joe Lynch. Screenplay, Yale Hannon; story, Lynch, Hannon. Camera (color, widescreen), Steve Gainer; editor, Evan Schiff; music, Bear McCreary; production designer, Ondrej Nekvasil; set decorator, Mina Buric; set designer, Dusan Demic; costume designers, Olivia Miles, Momirka Bailovic; sound, Nenad Vukadinovic; supervising sound designer, Trevor Gates; re-recording mixer, Jonathan Wales; visual effects supervisors, Anton Pokrovsky, Jeffrey Kalmus; visual effects executive producer, Irina Kolesova; visual effects producer, Melissa Brockman; visual effects, Chimney VFX, Cosmic Forces; stunt coordinator, Noguchi Akihiro; assistant director, Joel Morales; casting, Elaine Grainger.

With: Salma Hayek, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Laura Cepeda, Togo Igawa, Akie Kotabe, Gabriella Wright, Caroline Chikezie, Jennifer Blanc, Jelena Gavrilovic, Aisha Ayamah. (English, Japanese dialogue)

More Film

  • China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches

    China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches $557 Million in Second Week

    The winning films from Chinese New Year remained on top of the Chinese box office in their second normal weekend of release. Locally-made sci-fi film “The Wandering Earth” advanced its score to $557 million. “Wandering Earth” earned $88.8 million between Friday and Monday, according to data from Asian film industry consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was [...]

  • Nuno Beato’s ‘My Grandfather’ Part of

    ‘My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons’ Marks Sardinha em Lata’s Animation Build

    Portuguese animator-producer-director Nuno Beato, whose credits include “Emma & Gui,” “Híssis” and the multi-prized “My Life In Your Hands,” will pitch a new project, currently in development, “My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons” at Bordeaux’s upcoming Cartoon Movie, the leading European animated feature forum. Cartoon Movie runs March 5-7. More Reviews Sundance Film [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in

    Writers Guild Makes It Official: This Is the Most Wide-Open Oscars Race Ever

    For the record, we’re in uncharted territory this Oscar season. While we still have the costume designers’ ceremony to get through on Tuesday, the Writers Guild Awards put a bow on the major guild kudos circuit Sunday night. The results have yielded what is, unequivocally, the most wide-open Oscar field in history. More Reviews Sundance [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content