Open confession right out of the gate: I’ve always been a Joe Lynch fan, partially because he’s a really sweet guy and hardcore genre geek who really knows his shit, but also because he took a throwaway project like Wrong Turn 2 and somehow turned in a legitimately clever horror sequel; he provided a short burst of disgusting humor into the very uneven Chillerama anthology; and, despite a whole lot of well-documented post-production problems, managed to deliver some solid laughs in The Knights of Badassdom. (Also he was in a TV series called Holliston that I’ve never seen, mainly because I’m afraid I won’t like it.)
Fortunately Mr. Lynch has a new movie I do like. It’s sort of a “gimmick” action thriller that one could accurately describe as “Die Hard in a studio apartment, only this time John McClane is played by Salma Hayek.” And really, that should be enough to tell you if you’re in or if you’re out: tons of villains, a very wronged woman, and more high-end mayhem than the flick’s 92 minutes can contain. What Everly lacks in deep thematic strokes and intricate plot development, it more than makes up for in attitude, energy, and plain old visceral punch. (Let’s just say Everly is firmly rated R, and it deserves it.)
But while Everly is a simple and straightforward action movie, that doesn’t mean it’s low-rent or cheap-looking. What starts out as a woman fighting back against a seemingly endless group of underworld villains quickly turns into a willfully bizarre “grindhouse” sort of action flick that keeps finding new and creative ways in which to kill people in a very limited space. There’s also an amusing escalation of tone as the movie progresses; the threats go from basic underlings to John Carpenter-y hench-villains and ultimately to some freaks who fell out of a Quentin Tarantino / Rob Zombie co-production. Oh, and it all takes place on Christmas.
Kudos to editor Evan Schiff, cinematographer Steve Gainer, and frequent VIP Bear McCreary for providing the music; these are the people who make an action flick work. Especially one that takes place exclusively in two rooms and one hallway. Also nice work from the stuntpeople, many of whom take a lot of punishment for our viewing pleasure.
So the set-up is simple, the “one room” hook works unexpectedly well, and there are more than enough action sequences to keep everyone happy — but the jewel of the piece, of course, is Salma Hayek. While the still-lovely actress is certainly no stranger to action films, it’s refreshing to see a hard-edged, well-made action movie anchored by such a cool lady. The screenplay (by Yale Haddon) gives Ms. Hayek some interesting character beats — our heroine is trying to locate her daughter and dodge assassins at the same time — but she’s simply a lot more fun when she’s beating up, mowing down, or slicing through a new wave of henchmen.
Suffice to say that Salma Hayek has no problem anchoring an action movie. Stick her next to Jason Statham and that’s a new trilogy right there.