EVERLY: Fantastic Fest Review
There is something to be said for walking into something without expectations. I wasn’t expecting much from Everly, I had no clear conception of what the film might be. The plot description was vague enough that it could have been about anything. What it was was the most pleasant surprise of the festival so far. A nonstop, deviously creative film that plays like a cross between a classic John Carpenter siege film and the crazed pulp of Frank Miller in his prime. It’s a huge step forward for director Joe Lynch launching him from a director with the potential to do something good to a director with a chance to be one of the greats.
Everly stars Salma Hayek as a woman who has been a sex slave for a Yakuza boss for the last four years. One Christmas night, a confluence of events convinces her that she has finally had enough and she guns down a room of thugs. Her attempts to escape the apartment are thwarted by ever escalating threats, her fellow prostitutes, gangster, corrupt cops, man eating dogs, twisted specialists and finally her boss. Lynch semi jokingly described the movie as a cross between Lars Von Trier and Die Hard, but while Von Trier’s women suffer needlessly, Hayek’s Everly is not content to be victimized and kicks more ass than seems strictly possible.
The trick is that until the very, very end Everly never leaves the apartment for so much as a reverse shot. It’s an economical decision but it proves a brilliant creative one as well, allowing the pressure to build and build. Somehow every encounter gets more intense and more unpredictable. The action is furiously choreographed, devilishly clever, always clear and easy to follow and edited to the rhythms of the scene rather than into frantic shards. Salma Hayek anchors the film, she makes being near fifty look as good as Keanu Reeves and brings equal parts ferocity and heart to the part.
Joe Lynch’s roots as a horror director are apparent and of great value. It shows both in small details like the nastiness of an exit wound. Story beats like the macabre gift Hayek finds underneath her Christmas tree and larger character work like two late comers named The Sadist and The Masochist (you can probably guess what they do) who seem as though they’ve walked out of the latest Takashi Miike film and have dropped by on their way to a party at Seijun Suzuki’s place. But Everly also proves that Lynch has more versatility than you might expect. You would probably not guess that the director of Wrong Turn 2 would make a movie with this much heart.
There’s the old Godard maxim that the best way to criticize a film is to make another film and Everly proves a better counter balance to John Wick than I ever could. While it is in its own way as arch and heightened as Wick, while Wick‘s tone served to do nothing but make the entire film feel like a pose, Everly’s heigtened tone is there for a distinct reason. To make the threats larger than life, more insurmountable so it means something when they are over come, to allow for feats of super human endurance, to juxtapose sequences of sweetness, savagery and the grotesque so they enhance each other rather than cancel one another out. To allow for what I think can be called an honest to God Christmas miracle.
Everly is a movie with a lot of thought and care behind it, while John Wick was a movie just trying to look good. Genre lovers of all stripes make sure you see this one.