Just three weeks into the year, and I’m compelled to start putting together my “Worst Of” list for 2015. An ugly, morally bereft piece of residue from the bottom of the genre barrel, “Everly” seems like it wants to be a love letter to action auteurs like Robert Rodriguez, Luc Besson and John Woo, but instead is an insult to the very films of which it is so blatantly derivative. A botched attempt to parlay the most debasing of acts that can be perpetrated on a woman into a satisfying, ultra-violent revenge thriller, this film’s consistently misplaced humor, complete lack of logic and humdrum conclusion make for a nasty, misogynistic experience that has the gall to masquerade as something empowering. Its director, Joe Lynch, has likened his film to “Die Hard” — I guess because it takes place in a high-rise building on Christmas. Right. This is barely a poor man’s “Smokin’ Aces”.
Lynch (“Knights of Badassdom”) and first-time screenwriter Yale Hannon damn near rip-off Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” from the get-go, after Salma Hayek’s title character, a sex slave turned police informant on the Yakuza-esque organization that has imprisoned her for four years, takes on waves of assassins in the wake of her brutal gang-rape (heard off-screen). From there, after dispatching several attackers, she’s left in the company of a mortally wounded man (Akie Kotabe), presumably one of her violators, who she seems to keep around so he can impart upon her ancient Japanese wisdom like “There’s no point in squeezing your ass after passing wind”. The majority of the action occurs in Everly’s plush apartment, which is paid for by sinister ex-“boyfriend” Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe), who seems to have the whole town in his pocket. You’ll meet him in the final act, where he will further demean our heroine whilst spewing laughable bad guy clichés as if he’d just captured some sort of elusive master spy.
What might seem like a bold irreverence in the first ten minutes of “Everly” quickly reveals itself to be nothing more than perverse, inane schlock, as Hayek repeatedly gets shot at and tortured, and multiple escapes are almost always a result of her opponents’ complete ineptitude, not her wealth of street smarts. Chances of rescue quickly diminish when her police contact’s head is delivered to her in a box. Explosives seem to be her best friend — and there’s an endless supply of them, it seems — as Everly wipes out elevator loads full of armed henchmen while a mob-controlled S.W.A.T. team sits idly in the lobby. (One half-witted goon chases after his dog screaming “That’s not a ball!” when it runs after a live hand grenade). Furthermore, the development of Hayek’s character is so inconsistent it’s maddening: she’s a rock-solid weapons/tactics expert one minute, a trembling, terrified victim the next. It’s like Geena Davis’ character in “The Long Kiss Goodnight” without a ludicrous CIA operative/amnesiac backstory to explain it.
More frustrating still, Everly makes some inexplicably stupid decisions (e.g. bringing her aging mother and young daughter into the middle of the melee, only to pass them off to the prostitute neighbor who’d just threatened to kill her for a bounty), and the consequences culminate in a shamelessly contrived torture sequence that involves a man called The Sadist (Togo Igawa), a subservient little masochist (Masashi Fujimoto) who runs around naked wielding a bloody meat cleaver, and a demonic Kabuki theatre troupe. What’s the point? Are they trying to kill her or just break her down? Don’t try to analyze. It’s a desperate attempt at shock value that come across like a bad joke, and Lynch takes his film beyond exploitation into a realm where the elements of action and horror lack any cohesion or meaning.
In fact, “Everly” is so overloaded with cartoonish gore that it seems geared to please the most calloused of Takashi Miike fans; at the very least, films like “Ichi the Killer” were fully aware of what they were trying to do within the splatter sub-genre. Lynch, on the other hand, is unable to lock down a tone, and the result ultimately looks like a parody of Gareth Evans’ tenement-set action masterpiece “The Raid: Redemption”. A couple of isolated fight sequences are well-executed and hint at an emerging style, and DP Steve Gainer (“Catch Hell”) at least puts a little polish on this turd, but they often make no sense within the context of her predicament. This movie misfires at every agonizingly labored turn, raising several questions that I suppose it’s just too lazy to answer, while allotting plenty of time for dialogue like “That’s a lot of dead hookers”. Lynch’s biggest accomplishment is that he’s rendered the “Grown Ups” movies no longer Hayek’s most questionable career choice.