Everly

Director: Joe Lynch (2015)

Despite starring the pneumatic Salma Hayek as an imperilled prostitute, this exploitation action thriller repeatedly falls flat.

If you consider my intro to be tasteless and/or sexist then it’s a pretty accurate reflection of the film.

The concept of Everly has strength in it’s simplicity; blood-licking Yakuza boss Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe) has discovered his sex slave Everly (Hayek) is trying to shop him to the police.

Taiko is determined Everly will never leave her apartment so she has to defend her daughter Maisey (Aisha Ayamah) and mother Edith (Laura Cepeda) from waves of hit-men sent to assassinate her.

But the premise crumbles under pressure of a weak script, terrible dialogue, mediocre performances, an uncertain tone and blunt stabs at humour. A couple of moments of choreography aside, the direction is uninspired.

Other than tag-team villains The Sadist and The Masochist (Togo Igawa, Masashi Fujimoto) the bad guys are indistinguishably dull cannon fodder. Plus they don’t seem terribly clever, competent or keen to accomplish their mission.

It is frequently unintentionally and insufficiently funny.

Hayek looks fabulous and gives good shout but is miscast playing a role which feels written for a considerably younger actress.

Her cinema break-through was in Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado (1995) and followed it a role with in his From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) written by her co-star Quentin Tarantino.

Both twenty years ago. Dear Lord.

Rodriguez and Tarantino teamed-up on their Grindhouse (2007) double-bill. The creators of Everly are apparently in thrall to that poorly received work.

This is worse; a poor pastiche of the master magpies of cinema.

Following her nomination for a Best Actress Oscar for her self-directed Frida (2002), Hayek has combined TV work with Adam Sandler comedies Grown Ups (2010) and Grown Ups 2 (2013).

Now a naturalised US citizen, Hayek first established her acting credentials as soap opera star in her native Mexico.

Here she demonstrates the depth of her soap opera training, oscillating between angry and scared but never both at the same time.

Possibly inspired by the late success of the older Sandra Bullock (48 years against 50) as a sort of action heroine in Gravity (2013), Hayek could be applauded for taking her career in a new direction.

The excellent box office of Scarlet Johansson’s Lucy (2014) demonstrates a demand for female-led action movies – but this is a poor choice of material.

Hayek seems to lack the subtlety, wit or desire to make her character interesting or entertaining and her Jessica Rabbit-esque frame amply reflects her character’s cartoon quality.

The framing of cinematographer Steve Gainer draws attention to Hayek’s breasts at every opportunity generating an unthinkingly voyeuristic feel.

And in it’s gleeful offing of prostitutes in non-inventive ways and violent prosecution of the lead, the film seems determined to punish all the women onscreen.

However with it’s protective mother dynamic Hayek presumably imagines the film errs on the side of redemption not misogyny.

Everly is a series of unexplained contradictions failing to be a coherent character: She massacres a room full of men but is squeamish about frisking their dead bodies.

She can operate a variety of weapons with deadly effect while straight-faced suggesting she’s never held one before. She forgets she has wounds and brushes off explosions and blood loss and worries about her choice of outfits.

For a single location film – essentially an apartment block turned brothel but mostly taking place in the one room – the geography is poorly articulated, making for confusing action scenes.

Despite it’s 18 certificate, brothel setting and cast of prostitutes, there’s a staggering lack of sex or nudity.

Unlike the excellent John Wick there’s no sense of a coherent wider society existing beyond the gangland world exists within, creating a drama-and-suspense-killing lack of consequence.

There’s an Edgar Wright-style burst of energetic editing when a drink is served but rather than feeding the rhythm of the film, it trips it up.

Similarly a gag involving Hayek’s leopard-print heels isn’t developed, leaving it on the shelf without a punch line.

It’s typical of the film this idea is not followed up, just another idea thrown thoughtlessly into the mix along with sulphuric acid, an Alsatian dog and a pink teddy bear.

The Christmas setting allows us to be treated to a selection of festive follies on the soundtrack, another example of the misjudged humour and wavering tone.

In more than one way Everly’s final shot is the best.

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