Directed by Joe Lynch.
2014. Rated R, 92 minutes.
The very first thing we see is an overhead shot of a bloody, battered, naked Everly (Hayek) stumbling into a bathroom. She puts on some clothes, retrieves the gun and cell phone she had hidden in the tank of the toilet, and makes a frantic phone call. Judging from this and the voices we hear of the men outside the door, she's just had a terrible experience. One of these guys eventually enters the bathroom. At that point, the movie begins with a bang. A shootout follows which leaves all but one of Everly's assailants dead and her looking for an escape route. Turns out these guys had a boss, the ruthless gangster Taiko (Watanabe). He owns the building she's in and it is heavily guarded. He then calls Everly on the phone to let her know that not only will she never leave that apartment alive, but he also has men on the way to her mother and daughter, who she called earlier. To finish Everly off, Taiko sends a few of his own goons, plus he sends a mass text to others in the building informing them there is a fifty thousand dollar bounty on her head. We watch her try to deal with all of this.
As you can, Everly starts out in fifth gear. Action junkies can rest assured it stays there for virtually its entire runtime. Occasionally, it slips back into fourth, but we're still moving pretty rapidly. We get just enough exposition to keep the plot moving forward at an equivalent rate. Somehow, the simplicity of it all still provides us with a really satisfying dish. That's because the one thing it delivers is compelling, a tough heroine trapped in an apartment trying to outgun and outsmart all of these people who take turns barging in just to kill her. Hayek gives a terrific performance. We feel her angst and desperation from the very beginning. She manages the perfect blend of toughness and vulnerability needed to sell the role. She is not unlike the highly praised Furiosa as played by Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. This film isn't on the same scale and only has a small fraction of the budget. Still, she is no less fierce in the face of similarly insurmountable odds. It's some of Hayek's best work in years, especially in comparison to her other English speaking parts.
Hayek's character and circumstances and how it all plays out led me to some interesting questions as I watched. Is this a feminist, girl-power type of film, or a fetishization of female victimization? It straddles the line between both and I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking it winds up on either side. Everly is certainly a woman trying to seize control of and reverse her own subjugation and degradation at the hands of men. She fights with every fiber of her being, using both fire and brainpower to navigate the minefield in which she finds herself. From that perspective, the film is edifying. As things progress, the people coming after Everly become more and more outrageous. It's telling that her two toughest opponents are an insatiable sadomasochist and the man who presides over this little slice of the world. With them comes the question of whether we're supposed to enjoy seeing Everly overcome adversity or seeing her squirm. I think it's both. Despite this, I still think this is feminist, not misogynist. The movie framed by her point of view, and so we identify with her. We suffer through the same things she does. Likewise, we share in any victories she achieves.
Making such inferences requires a level of scrutiny you may not be reaching for when sitting down to watch Everly. In that case, it's the surface stuff that counts. That surface is comprised of fun, yet graphic violence. We can enjoy it without too much worry precisely because of how graphic it is. Much of it feels so over the top that it feels cartoonish. While the feelings of our heroine are palpable and sustain the movie, the blood-splattering ridiculousness of it all keeps it from being overbearing. This is helped by a very thin veneer of campiness which mostly manifests itself in the outlandish characters that show up at Everly's apartment and the battles that ensue. Therefore, even though it's a film that does make some commentary, Everly is about a woman trying to survive in the most basic sense of the word. It's a blast to watch. You might dismiss it as a mindless blood-letting and I couldn't blame you for doing so. On the other hand, maybe, just maybe it will strike a deeper chord.