Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Everly: Salma Hayek vs. the Yakuza

Even if you believe “violence is never the answer and what the world really needs is more love and understanding,” just keep it to yourself. Everly does not have time for warm and fuzzy liberal new age platitudes and we do not want to hear them. She is simply too busy worrying about escape and payback. For several years, she was enslaved as a prostitute by the Yakuza, but now she will try to shoot her way out of their fortified brothel. It is not a well thought out  plan, but at least she will be able to take a lot of bad guys with her in Joe Lynch’s Everly (trailer here), which opens this Friday in targeted markets.

Everly used to be the favorite of the kingpin, Taiko, but not anymore. An honest cop also lost his head over her. Taiko had it boxed up and presented to her. She had agreed to testify for the late detective, but obviously that will not be happening. Taiko’s men were supposed to do their worst to her, but she was able to stash a gun in the toilet bowl. Bullets will fly—and they will keep flying, but Everly is not immune to them. In fact, she starts the film pretty dinged up, but she is able to patch herself up and keep going.

Unfortunately for him, one of Taiko’s bean-counters gets gut-shot in the first volley. There is clearly no way he will make it. Much to her surprise, the dying paper-pushing gangster offers her some helpful strategic consultation as he slowly expires. Acting on his advice, she makes a risky play, arranging a pretext for her mother and the daughter she never knew to pick up a bag of traveling money from Taiko’s high-rise of hedonism-turned war zone.

To their credit, Lynch and screenwriter Yale Hannon understand the point of a film like this and therefore never cheapen it with a disingenuous take-away about the supposed dangers of firearm possession or the folly of vengeance taking. Taiko and his associates need to die—period. Frankly, some bits are rather disturbingly explicit, particularly those involving the “Sadist” played by the classy Togo Igawa (the first Japanese member of the Royal Shakespeare Company), but that makes it extra satisfying when they get theirs.

It should also be noted the forty-eight year old Salma Hayek looks all kinds of dangerous as Everly. She is in tremendous shape and shows real action chops, but in a grittier, less cartoony way. She conveys the well-armed rage of a desperate mother, which makes each showdown deeply primal. There are real stakes in Everly—and plenty of blood, but her relatively quiet scenes with Akie Kotabe as the dying suit are some of the film’s best.

We have often lamented the dearth of legitimate female action stars in Hollywood and mainstream indie movies. It is so bad, Meryl Streep has laughably been suggested for the female Expendables film in development. With Everly, Hayek blasts herself into contention to lead the whole darned shooting match. Despite its obvious debt of inspiration to Gareth Huw Evans’ The Raid, it is an old school, deliciously sleazy revenge thriller that always delivers the goods right to your doorstep and never expects a tip. Highly recommended for fans of exploitation action, Everly is now available on VOD via iTunes and opens this Friday (2/27) in selected cities.