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I am a big fan of director Joe Lynch. His output includes some really impressive efforts. Wrong Turn 2 and Mayhem are two such examples. And the often-overlooked neo-grindhouse actioner Everly is yet another. In short: Everly is an intense, blood-soaked ride that never lets up.
Everly catches up with the titular character (Salma Hayek), who has long been held captive by a Yakuza boss. The criminal overlord by whom she has been enslaved has learned of Everly’s plans to turn in evidence and responds by placing a bounty on her head. Trapped in her apartment with an endless supply of munitions, Everly must defend herself against a barrage of opportunistic mercenaries looking to collect the bounty on her head. And if that’s not enough, Everly must also attempt to orchestrate safe passage for her mother and her daughter, both of whom are in grave danger.
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Salma Hayek’s turn as the titular character serves to help elevate this film above run-of-the-mill shoot ‘em up cinema. This is one of the actress’ most powerful performances. Her portrayal of Everly is passionate, intense, and at times, heartbreaking. Her undying devotion to her daughter makes her a protagonist that is easy to invest in. Every decision she makes is through the lens of what will best serve her child. In fact, Everly demonstrates early on that she’s willing to give her life to save that of her little girl. But make no mistake, just because she is willing to lay her life on the line to save her baby girl doesn’t mean she’s weak or helpless. Far from it. Everly is a bona fide badass. She leverages what she has at her disposal to hold her own. And she never gives up. She keeps fighting to the bitter end.
Furthering Everly’s standing as a well-rounded protagonist is her good nature. She even shows kindness to a man sent to kill her after he is fatally wounded. As he lies dying, she brings him water to drink and shows him compassion. She’s always looking out for others, even those that may wish her harm. And that goes a long way toward establishing her as a relatable and sympathetic lead.
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Everly also remains surprisingly cool-headed, in spite of dire circumstances. The Yakuza boss holding her captive has a reach that extends far and wide. He owns the police and is above the law in every way, even going so far as to brazenly kill the one cop willing to help Everly escape. That dynamic makes for a rather harrowing viewing experience. Not only is she confined to her apartment, with mercenaries waiting to kill her, but she is also entirely without an ally. And the hits just keep coming. But she stays strong in the face of unspeakable peril. In spite of being a victim in every sense of the word, Everly never acts like one.
Additionally, in spite of the dire situation in which she finds herself, Everly is gracious enough to rattle off some pitch-perfect one-liners. She delivers them every bit as effectively as her male counterparts in the shoot ‘em up genre, if not more so. In one such instance, she retorts that the Yakuza overlord holding her in captivity can lick her balls. Then she bursts through the door of her apartment shouting “I’m nobody’s bitch”.
Hayek’s delivery of quips, her fight choreography, and her prowess with a firearm are all impressive and serve to make me wonder why we don’t have more female action heroes. For every Samantha Caine in The Long Kiss Goodnight, there are several dozen action movies with male protagonists doing their best John McClane. And it’s time for that dynamic to shift. Everly is proof positive that it’s time to level the playing field and deliver more action features starring female protagonists.
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Hayek’s tour de force performance isn’t the only facet of the film that works remarkably well, however. Director Joe Lynch makes remarkably effective use of a single location, immediately instilling a sense of claustrophobia in the audience. Additionally, he maintains a breakneck pace for the duration of the film’s runtime, giving the audience no choice but to keep watching as the action unfolds at warp speed. This is one of the most simultaneously engrossing and surprisingly heartfelt actioners I’ve seen in some time.
As for why the film remains underseen, I think The Weinstein Company mishandled the release. The flick landed quietly on VOD without a great deal of marketing and sort of faded into relative obscurity from there. Everly certainly has its fans. Myself very much included. But this flick is deserving of a much larger audience.
If you’re keen to check Everly out, you can find it for free (with ads) on Pluto, FreeVee, The Roku Channel, and Vudu, as of the publication of this post.
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