On paper, it seemed like a done deal. Salma Hayek as a voluptuous prostitute fighting for a life against the cronies of her jilted ex-lover, a nefarious pimp who carries a samurai sword and cackles like a Bond villain? Sign me up. But for a fun-sounding exploitation flick – think Kill Bill meets Die Hard with a more bodacious lead – Everly is an astonishingly punishing watch, dragging Hayek through all kinds of uncomfortable tortures without offering much of anything else to pick up the narrative slack, be it humor, thrills or any semblance of depth.
As such, what’s left over is difficult to regard as anything other than a failure on the part of writer/director Joe Lynch and co-writer Yale Hannon, neither of whom are able to provide the adrenaline kick that a low-budget, pedal-to-the-metal action flick like Everly so intrinsically required. Without it, Hayek’s resilient sex slave mows down mafia goon after mafia goon, utilizing a seemingly endless supply of machine guns stowed around her apartment (the film’s sole setpiece) to lay waste to almost everyone who comes through her front door, but it’s just manufactured mayhem. Sorely lacking is any sense of Quentin Tarantino-esque snark, John McTiernan-esque glee or really anything that gives the bloodshed purpose.
When we first meet Hayek’s character, it’s through her screams of pain, heard but not seen, as she’s being brutally gang-raped by associates of her vengeful boss. Not knowing anything about Everly, it’s still stomach-turning to comprehend. She’s first seen crawling, naked and bloody, across a bathroom floor, victimized but not yet broken, reaching for the gun that she knows is her only chance at survival. Then, rallying an inner strength that’s scarcely commented on, she picks herself up and proceeds to take on the entire Japanese mafia. The intent here is clear – Everly is finally an empowered woman, a slave breaking free of her chains, wresting back control of her body, mind and soul.
Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it comes across. Lynch’s camera consistently leers at Everly, highlighting her heaving bosom and (from the get-go) her shapely derriere, and much of the violence aimed at the character involves her attackers’ attempts to strip her of power over her own body. Poor Everly is battered, bloodied, stabbed, shot, poisoned and punished ruthlessly throughout the film, and all of it is skin-crawlingly uncomfortable to watch, especially when the film seems to be asking us to still regard the protagonist in the same lecherous light as her depraved attackers (who, by the way, include a nightmarish pair actually called the Sadist and the Masochist, who arrive with an array of fiendish devices and poisons, from battery acid to gasoline, that sink the movie down to Saw levels of grotesqueness).
Something terrible happened on the way from concept to celluloid with Everly. Perhaps what took the film over the edge from female-empowerment actioner to sleazy, Uzi-spiced pornography was the inclusion of Everly’s wide-eyed baby daughter, who clutches a teddy bear for safety as the Sadist forces poison down her guardian’s throat or a half-naked crazy with a cleaver stands poised to chop her to bits in a bloodstained hallway. Or perhaps Everly was rotten from day one, when Lynch and Hannon neglected to give Everly the depth or narrative intrigue to make its lead’s abject suffering and eventual liberation actually mean something.
Surely, Hayek would not have starred in this exploitative piece of trash had she realized just how deplorably regressive or even how dramatically inert it really was. Everly can be pared down into a cycle of senselessly sadomasochistic violence: strip, suffer, shoot, repeat, strip, suffer, shoot, repeat. It’s to action extravaganzas what Fifty Shades of Grey is to forbidden romances – i.e., about as tasty and titillating as a mouthful of battery acid.
Everly underwhelms on Blu-Ray, with its 1080p transfer curiously yielding a stagnant end product that is very occasionally punctuated by some bright colors or dynamic moments. For the most part, the film is visually dull and uninvolving, although Lynch does do a tremendous job of establishing the layout of the apartment where Everly finds herself holed up. It’s just that there’s not much to love about the film’s flat look, and the Blu-Ray’s level of detail isn’t as strong as one might expect.
Sonically, though, this release is a bit of a beast, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track giving the gunfire a deafening and chaotic edge that truly rattles. The mixture of action sound effects, from deep shotgun booms to jarring pistol discharges and inhuman screams, should prove satisfying for the most demanding of genre aficionados, and the dialogue is still sturdy at the center, delivered crisply and audibly even with all hell breaking loose around the characters. Though the film itself is strongly discouraged, anyone who still seeks it out should turn the volume way up.
Extras are sparse, including:
- “Creative Feature” Audio Commentary with Director Joe Lynch, Co-Producer Brett Hedblom, and Editor Evan Schiff
- “Technical Feature” Audio Commentary with Director Joe Lynch and Cinematographer Steve Gainer
- “Silent Night” Music Video by Raya Yarborough and Bear McCreary, directed by Joe Lynch
Though it offers decent video and stellar audio, Everly can in no way be recommended. It’s such an ugly and repetitive affair that action aficionados can easily look elsewhere to find a more satisfying thrill ride and, though Hayek is a superb actress, she’s roundly let down here by her director and screenwriter. Let’s hope Everly gets banished to the bottom of the bargain bin sooner rather than later, where no one who stumbles across it will be very surprised by the repugnant, reprehensible blend of sex and violence it contains.
Without its least savory scenes, Everly would still be exploitative junk, but the film's fetishistic treatment of the tortures endured by its lead actress turns the whole affair toxic.