Movie Review: “Everly”

Salma Hayek, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Akie Kotabe, Laura Cepeda, Aisha Ayamah
Joe Lynch

There’s something oddly appealing about the kind of movie that encourages you to turn off your brain for 90 minutes while a gun-toting badass takes down a bunch of bad guys in extremely violent fashion. Perhaps it’s the 13-year-old boy stowed away in the back of our psyches, giddy at the prospect of an entire film overflowing with blood, boobs and explosions. Some of cinema’s guiltiest pleasures have followed this formula to great success (most recently, the Keanu Reeves actioner “John Wick”), and although director Joe Lynch’s “Everly” desperately wants to join those ranks as the next cult classic shoot-‘em-up, it falls disappointingly short on a number of levels.

After serving as a sex slave for ruthless crime boss Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe) for the past five years, Everly (Salma Hayek) has finally had enough, striking a deal with one of the few honest cops in town to place her in witness protection in exchange for her testimony against Taiko. But Everly’s dreams of finally meeting her young daughter, Maisey (Aisha Ayamah), whom she left in the care of her mother (Laura Cepeda) as a baby, are quickly destroyed when Taiko learns of her betrayal, placing a bounty on her head that attracts all sorts of weirdoes to the swanky apartment where she’s holed up. Convinced that she won’t make it through the night alive, Everly instructs her mother to come pick up the getaway money at her apartment instead, inadvertently pulling her family into the conflict as she fends off countless waves of ferocious intruders intent on collecting the reward.

Though it actually starts out as a pretty decent, low-budget action movie, wasting no time throwing its heroine into the fire, “Everly” gets progressively worse with each passing minute. Between the terrible dialogue and poor acting (save for a totally game Hayek), the film doesn’t have very much going for it. The main villain is so unforgettable that he stays hidden behind a cell phone for most of the movie, while the rest of the baddies never amount to more than thinly-written caricatures with names like “Dead Man” and “Butcher Whore.” The most notable assassin of the bunch – a man who calls himself The Sadist (Togo Igawa) and uses various poisons and acids to torture his victims – is not only a repulsive homage to gonzo Japanese torture porn, but feels completely out of sync with the rest of the movie’s more whimsical tone.

Lynch’s film has clearly been influenced by the likes of “Kill Bill” (the whole revenge fantasy plot) and “Die Hard” (the isolated setting), but it doesn’t have an ounce of their intelligence or an engaging protagonist. Hayek does the best she can with what little she’s given, but nothing about her character makes sense, like how she’s able to dispatch an army of killers when she barely even knows how to shoot a gun. And while Everly is intended to be a strong, independent female character, she’s constantly undercut by the movie’s misogynistic treatment towards women, especially the way that Lynch’s camera lingers over Hayek’s body like a horny teenager peeking into the girls locker room.

Though it’s not quite as awful as Lynch’s last effort, the long-delayed horror-comedy “Knights of Badassdom,” it had the right ingredients to be an enjoyable genre flick, as evidenced by the satisfying yet uninventive action sequences and the occasional flashes of humor. But while the idea of watching a scantily-clad Hayek fight her way through a gang of yakuza henchman and prostitutes-turned-assassins may sound like a grand old time on paper, “Everly” is never able to match its B-movie aspirations, instead forced to flounder in the gutter like the filthy, exploitative grindhouse film that it is.