“That’s a lot of dead whores”
The best part of Everly is the realization that smartasses the world over deeming it worthy of cult status will soon begin a trend of calling it a Christmas film. Social media couldn’t help itself last December with overused jokes about readying to watch Die Hard or Gremlins to ring in the yuletide cheer and come this winter those same people will have another ironic selection for the pile. All it took was screenwriter Yale Hannon and director Joe Lynch placing a couple lines of dialogue from one character to the next saying “Happy Holidays” and the deed was done. Salma Hayek mows down a litany of Yakuza, their weaponized sex slaves, their back-pocketed police force, and a self-proclaimed sadist, but when we aren’t laughing about it or reveling in its gore “Silent Night” suddenly reminds us what’s truly important.
Kudos to the filmmakers for finding one more reason to appreciate the no-holds-barred action as something worthwhile—a contingency plan if you will in case the violence isn’t fun enough to warrant some extra midnight screening parties. Personally I think the result is worthy of such praise and appeal regardless, wearing its absurdity on its sleeve and constantly finding new ways to amp up the shock value of what’s unfolding before our eyes. Any little detail such as its positioning on the calendar can only enhance what’s ultimately a one-set theatrical dance, self-contained and devoid of rules. As soon as we hear Everly’s (Hayek) wails with only blackness to look at before her naked body stumbles into the bathroom beaten and bruised, we know a bomb is about to explode with no time to take stock of the situation.
Here she is scared, angry, fed up with a four-year imprisonment courtesy of her “boyfriend” Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe) that’s isolated her in a small apartment on the sixth floor of a city building, and just gang raped by a group of mobsters hiding behind “orders” to let their repulsive souls out. She’s escaped for a few minutes at least, desperate to retrieve the cell phone and gun hidden inside her toilet tank. One call is dialed to the police officer that swore to help her: voicemail. A second pings her estranged mother currently raising her daughter: voicemail. Suddenly the last thing she can do is to turn the gun on her own temple and prevent the pain from starting again once the bathroom door crashes in. But when the shot blares it’s not her head that the bullet hits.
Instead the scene becomes similar to the lucky adventure had by The Boondock Saints amidst a room of gangsters having a good time. Bullet after bullet hits its mark until the shaking Everly finds herself alone and out of breath. What she probably knew would happen next does without pause as other sex slaves like her come barreling in with guns raised to take her out so the boss doesn’t respond in kind by doing them in. Bodyguards arrive with automatic weapons, the boys in blue tumble in with orders to keep her in the room, a cleanup crew in riot gear storms the stairwell with force, and a theatrical show drenched in cultural aesthetic and acid begins. Wave after wave of enemy combatants and yet Everly stands alone, clawing her way through them on pure adrenaline.
She knows she won’t escape alive and she frankly doesn’t care as long as she’s able to get her daughter and mother to safety with a bag full of cash she’s squirreled away. When it becomes obvious she won’t be able to meet them elsewhere, the necessity of them coming to her gets uttered like the horrible idea and last-ditch effort it is. Impracticality aside—there’s no way Taiko’s men would ever let an older woman and a five-year old kid into the building when it’s probably common knowledge that their boss is looking for a pair fitting that exact description—their inclusion to the party adds some relevant heart and motive towards how Everly can keep going despite everything that happens. They give her purpose and in turn render the chaos itself meaningful.
Without them the film is merely a shoot-em up without real stakes. It could also be said that if Hannon and Lynch crafted their titular character as a badass assassin or burned spy the same hollowness would have resulted. It’s because she’s out of her element, reacting on instinct born from maternal love, and not relishing the carnage that we can relate to her and desire a happy ending—or at least something partially resembling one with bullet holes and stab wounds gracing anyone who dares come near the building. Hayek gives her a vulnerability on top of the steely cold stare when pushed to the edge while Lynch allows her to scream in distress when the moment deserves it because she’s getting the crap beat out of her despite finding a way to take everyone down with her.
A comic book-like concert of blood, metal, and gunpowder, the close-quarters setting provides a tense atmosphere to complement the otherwise over-the-top action rife with near misses and convenient reprieves. Hayek is a force to reckon with and the brawling she does while in a nightgown is impressive. There’s a fire in her eye rendering anything possible—especially when the men are drawn overly hubristic and the majority of women easily duped. That doesn’t mean the sheer numbers spilling through her door aren’t trouble enough or that the addition of grenades and RPGs ratchet things to even more volatile heights. With its heart and comedy finding cracks in the violence to worm their way into the audience’s brains, however, it almost seems deeper than it is. It’s not, but it’s nice to think it could be in the moment.