It has been a very, very bad day for Everly. EVERLY, named for its title character who is omnipresent in the non-stop action, is a little bit video game, a little but gun porn, a heaping scoop of graphic novel hyper-reality, a healthy dash of bizarre and a LOT of black humor. Uncertain for the first 15 minutes or so of precisely what the film wants to be, I soon realized that EVERLY is not truly one genre or another – it’s a new kind of cinematic cocktail which leaves you with two choices: love or hate. It has too much emotional content (albeit somewhat cliched and predictable) to be a traditional comic book adaptation, and yet it is so nuts that it’s not grounded in realism either. If you’re going to go big, fast and soaked in blood you better not hold back. There is no room for vacillation or ambivalence and first time screenwriter Yale Hannon and Director Joe Lynch are relentless. To say it is a bloodbath seems like a slight understatement. And as the bodies pile up, my pulse raced and I laughed harder and harder.
EVERLY, our title character, is portrayed by the indescribably stunning Salma Hayek and her breasts. She has been a sex slave for the last four years, imprisoned in her room by her Japanese war lord owner Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe). As the film opens to a black screen filled only with Hayek’s convincing screams of agony, we soon see that the most recent bunch of clients has not been very nice. Everly’s room is but one on a floor of many women like her, and each brings a different flavor of sex. The entire film is every 25 year old heterosexual male’s fantasy; beautiful, sexy, thematically clad women battling each other, and the bad guys, to the death with big guns and myriad other groovy weaponry. I mean, what more could you want??? Yes, it is somewhat formulaic but what saves it from being a waste of time – and a crashing bore despite the vats of fake blood sprayed liberally thought the film – is that Hayek is convincing and bad-ass, and it is so ridiculous it’s hilarious. EVERLY’s humor is its saving grace.
Wasting no time at all in launching us into the action the film gives us little clue of what the scenario is. Naked and beaten we see Everly first getting a brief moment of refuge in her bathroom. And then it’s game on. Her visitors will not be coming back despite the odds being stacked heavily against her. Those odds, and Everly’s uncanny ability to defy death and rise again like a phoenix in spite of her seemingly mortal wounds, are not supposed to be taken seriously. From her initial choice of escape footwear, to the phone conversations with her mother, to the brilliant game of fetch with an attack dog and more – it is gleefully comical as it gets more twisted and grotesque. Just as the whorehouse’s residents are straight out of central casting it is not a surprise that the villains, who are Japanese, have bizarre and deviant sexual tastes. For almost 40 years, since the much talked about IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (1976), there has been a muffled onscreen association of the Japanese with unusual and potentially dangerous sexual tastes. EVERLY has seemingly no problem reinforcing this stereotype further and you just can’t wait to see who turns up next.
EVERLY has the claustrophobic feel of a stage play because, save for a few scenes in the hallway and elevator, we never leave Hayek’s room. The underworld seems to come to her, and if the film’s narrative was only slightly more cerebral and academic, or – God forbid – made an ethical statement about the world’s epidemic sex slave trade and its true human horror, it could in fact be brought to the stage and it would be riveting. The first four rows of seats would have to don rain-ponchos to protect from the constant shower of blood, but no matter, it could work, and work well. For now the film’s prodigious bloodshed is a convenient and safe metaphor for the human story underneath the flashier story. The movie flows visually despite being confined in a very tight scope and that is all about the skilled cinematography of Steve Gainer and the gifted production designer Ondrej Nekvasil (SNOWPIERCER, THE ILLUSIONIST). EVERLY is a fun ride and one you won’t soon forget. Joe Lynch wisely kept the film to a tidy and action-packed 92 minutes full of Salma Hayek’s glory while allowing other characters to help move the story along and provide nice contrast. Just remember, practical shoes are usually your best choice in war…(3 / 5)
Director: Joe Lynch
Cast: Salma Hayek, Akie Kotabe, Laura Cepeda, Aisha Ayamah, Hiroyuki Watanabe
Runtime: 92 minutes
Movie Review EVERLY