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by Jay Seaver

"Shoot-em-up Salma!"
4 stars

SCREENED AT FANTASTIC FEST 2014: I kind of wonder why folks like Salma Hayek take jobs like "Everly"; is there some movie-star calculus where the lead role in an English-language action movie almost certain to go straight to video on demand is worth more than a Spanish-language drama or an ensemble part on television, either in terms of money or ego? I'm not complaining about her and others whose careers are at the same spot taking these jobs, you understand, I like these movies and like them even more when the star is someone who can do a little more than look good on the cover. And, hey, if she's willing to do something this nuts, so much the better.

She plays the title character, who was kidnapped four years ago and kept for yakuza boss Taiko's pleasure, presumably via threats to kill her mother and now five-year-old daughter if she got out of line. As the movie starts, it looks like Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe) has learned that she's been contacted by the Feds and sent a bunch of men to rape and kill her, unaware she's got a phone and gun stashed in the bathroom. And while that may be enough for this group of thugs, Takio owns the building and the cops, so what was planned as an escape is looking an awful lot like a last stand.

This is not a set-up that makes a tremendous amount of sense at any point, so it's probably for the best that everything that got Everly to this place happens off-screen without anything in the way of flashbacks and only the vaguest sort of explanation; director Joe Lynch and screenwriter Yale Hannon wisely let the audience try and insert their own sense-making version of events if they're so inclined. Even with that out of the way, there's still a lot of really goofy action-movie silliness going on, such as Everly somehow being a crack shot despite likely being four years out of practice while only sustaining one through-and-through wound that doesn't seem to slow her down that much. Or her conveniently having the building's security system connected to her TV. Or her being targeted by waves of colorful assassins rather than what would seem likely to be more effective measures not deployed until later.

Then again, having a bunch of ridiculous assassins seemingly on loan from a Takashi Miike movie and a frenzied barrage of destruction confined to this room that calls to mind 2LDK is the reason that this movie exists - and I suspect touchstones like those are why Lynch & Hannon went with the Yakuza rather than someone more local to the film's North American setting or Belgrade filming location. Their continual one-upsmanship of what came last is too good to spoil for those coming in relatively cold, but there are waves from the opportunistic to the highly specialized, with weapons that go from knives to full automatic and beyond, including a few specialized detours. It's over the top from start to finish - a deep vein of black comedy is a constant companion to the non-stop violence - with weird characters moving in and out, although it's possible that the most memorable is the one who spends most of his time on Everly's side, a mortally wounded henchman (Akie Kotabe) who was never really into the more rape-intensive parts of the job anyway.

There's not a lot of tremendously complicated fight choreography; filling the room with bullets is mostly about positioning the camera so that the audience can believe that Everly diving for cover is as effective as we want it to be. For most of the movie, Lynch goes with a conceit that the camera never leaves the apartment (although given some of the scenes in the hallway, I think it must be okay so long as the cameraman has one foot still inside the doorway). It's maybe not quite the tight, claustrophobic situation that premise implies, but it gets the audience familiar with the battleground and highlights just how completely Lynch and company blast the crap out of it over the course of the movie. The production design guys do a fine job of making it feel like a gilded chge from the start, and using it to establish a world where all this insanity can go on.

And in the middle of it, there's Salma Hayek. She probably won't be bringing Everly up when telling her grandkids about her best roles down the line, but she is certainly able to give the movie what it needs. Hayek maintains the right level of desperation throughout the movie so that we never feel that killing a whole bunch of people is easy for her, either in terms of weapons skills or just having it weigh upon her. The audience can connect with her even if they suspect that they might not be so capable in the same situation. She's thankfully not called upon to wisecrack much, but she (and Lynch) do spot the moments when she can be a little funny without breaking character.

There's no denying that "Everly" is ridiculous - as I said up top, it's probably too ridiculous and blood-soaked to actually get much theatrical play in 2014 - and what Hayek brings doesn't really elevate it that much. But if you like lthis sort of thing, go right ahead and give it a shot. It's silly bloody fun, clearly on a budget but seldom feeling like it's cutting corners in a way that hurts the fun at all.

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originally posted: 09/24/14 18:53:26
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  27-Feb-2015 (R)
  DVD: 21-Apr-2015



Directed by
  Joe Lynch

Written by
  Yale Hannon

  Salma Hayek
  Jennifer Blanc
  Gabriella Wright
  Togo Igawa
  Akie Kotabe
  Caroline Chikezie

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