Everly (2015)

02/06/2015  By  Jordan Saïd     Comments Off

If you took Kill Bill and Smokin’ Aces, removed the former’s characterization and the latter’s use of color, and added a generous helping of male gaze and irrational contempt for women, you’d have Everly. Director Joe Lynch and writer Yale Hannon apparently did just that, making a film that has no shortage of blood… but a total dearth of any reason to care.

Everly opens with its title character (Salma Hayek) recovering after a gang of Japanese gangsters gang-rape her. The film continues Hollywood’s disturbing tradition of portraying rape as a net positive, because it snaps women out of their complacency. Once freshly awakened to a world of rape, Everly marches out, guns blazing—for a few seconds.

We later learn that her yakuza pimp and live-in lover, Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe), placed a $50,000 bounty on her head. The balance of the film consists of a long procession of prostitutes and yakuza toughs taking turns attacking Everly in her apartment—usually punctuating their arrivals with attempted pithy trash talk. They invariably injure Everly, and she eventually grabs their weapons and strikes back. All of these predicaments telegraph their eventual turnarounds, making us wait to see the slow execution of exactly what we know will happen.

How much does Everly suck? It made this boring.

One would think this plot setup would make a great opportunity for a story about female empowerment. A lone woman defends her home single-handedly from an entire mob. Sounds like an opportunity to show feminine strength in a male-dominated world, right?

On the contrary, Lynch and Hannon focus not on Everly’s triumphs, but her privations. They take a clear joy in showing Hayek and other women getting shot, tortured, mutilated, bled, and burned. Yes, the film shows violence against both sexes. But Lynch and Hannon depict violence against men in brief flashes with lasting ramifications. They depict violence against women with the camera almost gleefully resting on the woman’s pain. When the women finally die, they instantaneously vanish from the surviving characters’ collective memory—even major characters.

Hannon tries throughout to break up the monotony with dark humor. Most of this “humor” plays off the perceived comedic value in violence against women. Murdered prostitutes literally serve as the film’s dominant running gag.

The male characters have decidedly more to say and more definition in their personalities, even though none get nearly as much screen-time as Everly.

Akie Kotabe plays “Dead Man,” a moribund henchman who tries to help Everly out of remorse for his role in her rape and imprisonment. Although Everly balks onscreen at his sudden benevolence, the film actually does try to paint him as one of the more upright characters due to his decision to watch but not participate in the gang-rape that opens the film. What a stand-up guy.

“I didn’t rape or torture you, so you must want to give me your phone number. I’ll just look for it in this barrel.”

Togo Igawa plays “the Sadist,” a hitman who tortures his victims to death using a mixture of acids and bondage gear. He actually gets possibly the most actual characterization of any character in the film, even though he merely serves as a second-act antagonist. His scenes with Everly slow the second act to a crawl and mostly make for an excuse to show Salma Hayek in more pain. By that point, it feels like washing down Sour Patch Kids with lemon juice.

The final climax pits Everly against Taiko and drags on for another eternity. I love a good final climax as anyone, but this one consists mostly of Everly and Taiko trading trite ruminations on love as they run at each other waving swords.

The shoestring budget bleeds through like the crimson stains on the characters’ clothes. Battlestar Galactica’s Bear McCreary handles the soundtrack, made up entirely of downtempo covers of Christmas carols. The entire film takes place in one apartment complex, mostly in one room.

The camera accidentally wanders to the elevator where a whole different crew filmed “Men in Black IV: No, Really, Who Farted?”

Hannon dots the male-dominated paroxysms of emotionless violence with the occasional interlude featuring Everly trying to connect with her estranged mother (Laura Cepeda) and daughter (Aisha Ayamah). All of them fall flat. We don’t know anything significant about Everly except that Hayek, at 48, really stretches the bounds of believability as a yakuza pimp’s treasured favorite young prostitute. The film ends with a totally unearned attempt at sentiment that ends in poorly-concealed misdirection and obligatory sequel-bait.

I really had my hopes up for this film; I always felt like Hayek got similarly robbed in Once Upon a Time in the West. But frankly, I find it hard to regard Everly as anything more than a paean to the joy of non-consensual torture of women. Maybe I just don’t fall in its target audience. If you feel a sense of identity with trending hashtags like #ItsNotRapeIf, #LikeABoy, or, of course #GamerGate, then I’ve found just the film for you.

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Wit
Action
Cinematography
Salma Hayek's Motivation
Male Gaze

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About Jordan Saïd

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Jordan Saïd does mathematics by day and writes for Front Row Central and Turban Decay by night (and weekend). He specializes in American road films, kung fu cinema, and camp (the aesthetic, not the wilderness). He lives in Eastern Washington with five cats.