Low budget but high concept, this sub-Kill Bill vengeful-heroine-vehicle posits a suitably feisty Salma Hayek kicking plentiful ass in her apartment.Betrayed and left to be brutalised and tortured to death, prostitute Everly manages to somehow strike back and take out her oppressors, but that’s only the beginning, with a hit out on her which leaves dozens of assassins fighting to be the first to deliver her head. With her survival instinct kicking into overdrive, and only limited resources available, this will be the longest night of her life... if she can survive it.Set entirely in one location, Everly is occasionally restricted by the very thing that it wants to hang its hat on. The concept of staging an action film in just one room – and the open-plan apartment is basically that – is a good selling point, but can leave both the action and events feeling forced. Beyond some nice kills, and the chance to see the still-stunning Salma on rare action form, Everly struggles to deliver the goods.
There’s a rough edge around Everly, which bandies around notions of brutal torture and gang rape as if to lend it some kind of gritty adult weight, but which unfortunately instead ends up often leaving an unpleasant taste in the mouth, especially when juxtaposed with its otherwise fantastical framework. It’s not like Kill Bill didn’t trade in the same wares, but somehow Tarantino’s signature wit and fantasy Western vibe saves the day.
Here relatively unknown b-movie horror writer/director Joe Lynch is too busy whipping up a storm to figure out how to handle the tone, let alone explore the Western (or even Eastern, in an Old Boy / Lady Vengeance kind of way) undertones which would have given the film a much more interesting edge. That’s not to say that Lynch doesn’t make the most of the limited budget, turning in a surprisingly stylish effort and cleverly keeping the focus on Hayek, hoping that she will be enough to distract from the rough edges, plot holes and uneven tone. He’s halfway right too.
There are a lot of things wrong with the movie, but Salma Hayek isn’t one of them.
Pushing 50, she’s still got it, one of those classically beautiful women a la Monica Bellucci, she’s also got some serious fire, and – despite the inconsistencies in the design of her character – she remains committed throughout. It’s been a decade since she’s wielded a gun and, bad Adam Sandler comedies notwithstanding, arguably that long since she’s had a hit, and, if nothing else, Everly is proof that she deserves a few more decent lead roles.
I’m sure Hayek was hoping that his would turn out to be her version of Keanu Reeves’s glorious comeback, John Wick, but unfortunately it’s far from that. With violence that’s often more unpleasant than impactful, and a tone that’s more sleazy than gritty, it’s easy to see why so many have written it off. Although that’s also not wholly fair. It’s hard to watch something like John Wick and be blown away and then watch Everly and not notice the sheer drop. But watching Everly with no expectations? Well it might have more to offer (and it sure as hell has more to offer than it would have done with the originally-cast Kate Hudson).
It could have been Hayek's John Wick.
There are some inventive kills, some interesting ideas – the whole single-room concept is certainly different – and whilst it stretches the tolerance of the viewer in some places, it equally remains intriguing just how they manage to keep the whole thing going. Upping the ante; introducing new players; changing tactics in an attempt to keep the momentum – and tension – going. Sure, it may stall in places, and some of it won’t work, but it still makes a hell of an effort. One room, Salma Hayek, lots of guns, and lots of bad guys trying to kill her? They made a film out of what you’d get in one scene of something like Desperado. Despite the inherent criticisms that this idea attracts, there is something to admire about that kind of small-scale ambition. It’s just a shame it didn’t work out better.
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