Review: Everly Is A Disappointing, Brutal Mess

Salma Hayek proves she's too good to make a good-bad movie.
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Everly held a lot of promise – the bad-ass trailer, which seemed to come out of nowhere, excited audiences ready for a lady version of Liam Neeson’s Taken. But instead, what we get is a messy, tonally schizophrenic movie that’s so cruel and sleazy it’s impossible to enjoy as just another shoot-em-up. Unfortunately, the usually wonderful Selma Hayek is simply too good an actress to give a hammy, soapy performance to fit the movie’s over-the-top oeuvre. She isn’t just too good for this movie, she’s so good she hurts the movie.

Not that the movie has much going for it, anyways. Joe Lynch is a director with a relatively good track record as a genre director, and knows how to make “stylish movies,” but tends to go for the cruel rather then the clever. The script by Yale Hannon is inconsistent at best; occasionally clever, but nothing we haven’t seen before, and surprisingly childish. His story focuses on a hooker (because, of course) who has been trapped as a sex slave for four years in an apartment complex straight out of The Raid. We hear Everly being gang raped, screeching in agony, before finding a gun and killing them men working for the man keeping her hostage. From then on, Everly has to fight continual attacks, and bring her daughter and mother into the apartment to give them money.

Now, I’m about to point something out which might be a bit of a spoiler, but I also don’t think you should waste your time with this movie, so here goes: Everly brings her mother and daughter into the apartment because she wants to give them a duffle bag full of money. We never know where Everly got the money, or how she planned this attack – but she arbitrarily decides she can’t leave the apartment, and tells her mother and child to come to her, instead. The thing is: WHY??!!! Oh my gosh, why??!?!? There are bombs going off, dead bodies everywhere, the mother knows her daughter is in danger, and Everly’s own daughter doesn’t even know her because she’s about four. Seriously, a guy dies right next to this little girl and there is also a naked dude stalking her with a knife. That isn’t fun, it isn’t thrilling – it’s just gross.

And that really is the major problem I have with this movie. When you have a child at risk, showing them in danger adds a tone this movie can’t handle. It is the reason Taken has 20-something Maggie Grace in danger, or the reason we kill John Wick’s dog rather than his child. Likewise, the idea that these women have been imprisoned for years is instantly unsettling, because it’s impossible ignore the tortures we imagine (in general, I’m growing so tired of seeing rape used as a frivolous plot point in movies). Lynch seems to take as much pleasure in seeing Everly being tortured as in seeing her fight, and the amount of times we are forced to leer at Hayek’s cleavage is further suggestion that this is movie made purely in and for the male gaze. We even get a montage of hateful prostitutes (because Everly is the only sex slave with a heart of gold) fighting our heroine.

I can understand why Hayek wanted to take this role, and could have seen a more thoughtful version being something in the style of the horror film The Woman or even Kill Bill, elevating exploitation with depth and meaning, or they could have made something along the lines of a female John Wick or Liam Neeson film. But like Neeson’s last outings with the Taken franchise, this movie is a complete mix. It isn’t even as much fun as last year’s Lucy, which wasn’t good but did have a certain camp value. Selma Hayek simply can’t go full Nicholas Cage in order to sell this as some kind of operatic, unreal horror; and when she plays the film with so much emotional realism, we are just reminded that we are watching a woman be tortured, hunted, and beaten to death. Where is the fun in that?

Lesley Coffin is a New York transplant from the midwest. She is the New York-based writer/podcast editor for Filmoria and film contributor at The Interrobang. When not doing that, she’s writing books on classic Hollywood, including Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector and her new book Hitchcock’s Stars: Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollywood Studio System.

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