Everly feels like the sort of film a teenage boy might conjure up after sitting through a long weekend marathon of The Raid, Se7en, Assault on Precinct 13, Kill Bill and three consecutive viewings of Die Hard. It enthusiastically attempts to recreate and rework all of the “cool/badass/awesome” moments from those movies, but fails to grasp what made most of those films work in the first place. It has all the dramatic impact of an action movie sizzle reel – lots of exciting-looking craziness without a compelling narrative to support it. This isn't a plotless film, but the story and characters are so thin and generic it might as well be.
We meet Everly (Salma Hayek, Desperado) at her lowest point: battered and naked, trying to work up the courage to kill herself. She's trapped in her apartment bathroom, with armed goons waiting to kill her on the other side of the door. Everly decides that she won't go down without a fight: she bursts into the apartment, starts firing and manages to take out every single one of her attackers. It seems the men were sent by Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe), a yakuza boss who had been keeping Everly as his personal sex slave. Taiko discovered that Everly was secretly reporting his activities to the police, and he aims to get revenge: the yakuza boss vows to kill Everly along with her mother Edith (Laura Cepada) and daughter Maisey (Aisha Ayamah).
Most of the film's running time is occupied by scenes of people making unsuccessful attempts to eliminate our resilient heroine, and it doesn't take long for the action to start feeling repetitive. Yes, director Joe Lynch has a few modestly clever visual gags up his sleeve (like the way a closing elevator door edits out a particularly violent moment), but there's a numbing sameness to almost everything here: scene after scene of guns, blades, fountains of blood, torture, screams, cheesecake shots and people calling each other “bitch” (I'm not sure whether that word or the f-bomb gets more use here, but I'm pretty sure those two comprise about 70% of the dialogue). Sure, most of the action takes place within the confines of a single apartment building, but the film's static setting has little to do with its abundance of sameness.
I'm not opposed to excessively violent movies, but I am opposed to excessively violent movies as artless and witless as this one. The movie can't decide whether it wants to play this material for giggles or drama, causing some severe tonal whiplash that I found intolerable. One minute we're being asked to take Everly's suffering seriously, another minute we're being asked to chuckle at the elaborate torture device one of her opponents has created. This is the sort of movie that thinks it's being hilarious when it underscores savage violence with chipper Christmas songs. Ho, ho, ho.
To her credit, Hayek does what she can with the role, and tries to bring some humanity to a character who's mostly presented as a fetish object (the film's selling point is clearly “hot girl shoots people while wearing running around in her underwear”). It's decent performance applied to a severely underwritten character, and there's nothing Hayek can do about the fact that the film seems indecisive about whether Everly is a badass killing machine to frightened victim struggling to survive. She's got mad skillz when the movie needs her to have them, and she's an ordinary frightened human when the movie needs her to be. I'd be fine with either version of the character, but the movie never makes up its mind.
Everly is the latest in a long, long line of recent movies that wear their cinematic inspirations on their sleeves. Like many of those movies, it takes quite a few cues from Quentin Tarantino, whose films occasionally play like checklists of old genre flicks. The difference is that Tarantino has his own voice to add into the mix – his films are built on a foundation of other cool stuff, but they quickly become something unique and memorable in their own right. Everly merely dilutes the power of its assorted influences, cashing in on fanboy nostalgia rather than attempting to give the next wave of filmmakers something new to be nostalgic about years from now. If this is the kind of film we get from people who grew up on Die Hard, I can only imagine what sort of monstrosity we'll get from people who grew up on Everly.
Rating: ★ (out of four)
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 92 minutes
Release Year: 2015