Movie Review

Film Review: EVERLY (2014): The Perfect Template for A Video Game Movie

Everly Kabuki Assassins

Everly (2014Film Review, a movie directed by Joe Lynch, and starring Salma Hayek, Gabriella Wright, Jennifer Blanc, Togo Igawa, Caroline Chikezie, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Akie Kotabe, Andy McDermott, Uros Certic, Aisha Ayamah, Jelena Gavrilovic, Dragana Atlija and Laura Cepeda

As we move into 2015, audiences continue voyaging deeper into television’s current golden era. Movies — the entertainment industry’s equivalent of a hip older sibling, are now in the unfamiliar position of no longer being Hollywood’s most celebrated medium. Oscar winning actors constantly descend into the once pungent television swampland, transforming the medium into a pristine oasis. Programs like Game of Thrones and Mad Men constantly wrench headlines away from films at the top of all the critic’s must-see lists. Even best picture winning films are relegated to the dark corners of public conversation after being eclipsed by the monumental presence of TV’s new golden age. The Artist, a film that reached the much-coveted pinnacle of industry recognition and prestige, quickly dropped out of the pop culture zeitgeist, replaced with conversations about meth cooking high-school teachers and the refugees of a zombie apocalypse.

Unwilling to relinquish film’s monolithic standing as Hollywood’s golden child, the movie industry fought back, emphasizing the type of spectacle and cinematic bravado that exist outside of television’s limited reach. Hollywood decided to pass on cinematic austerity in favor of a symbiotic fusion with superheroes, monster movies, disaster pictures and the kind of action flicks that have Will Smith, Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise thwarting terrorist plots. Joe Lynch’s film Everly bucks that trend, dancing around big budget Hollywood extravagance with the finesse of a Matador side-stepping a rampaging bull.  In Everly, Lynch gives the audience the visceral experience of the modern day blockbuster without relying on the bloated budget and marketing pageantry that are essential steps in Hollywood’s current one dimensional film-making process .

The film begins with a battered Everly (Salma Hayek), trapped in an apartment bathroom, desperately struggling to stay alive despite the bloodthirsty Yakuza soldiers pounding on the other side of the door. We find out that Overlord Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe) sent a gang of would-be killers to punish Everly for working with police to bring down his criminal organization. Proving more resourceful than the Yakuza killers anticipated, Everly retrieves a gun hidden in the bathroom and kills all of her attackers. Much like a child discovering a new toy, Taiko uses Everly’s survival to amuse himself. Taiko places a bounty on Everly’s head and sends in an assortment of colorful killers to eliminate her. Accepting that her death is inevitable, Everly vows to stay alive long enough to keep her mother (Laura Cepeda) and daughter (Aisha Ayamah) from falling into Taiko’s ruthless hands.

Films with video game style pacing often get panned by both critics and and audiences. Everly proves to be the exception to the rule as the video game style pacing is essential to the film’s tight execution. Everly essentially takes place within one location and the constantly intruding gangs of assassin’s are as close as the movie comes to a change of scenery. Everly goes from battling poorly trained and money hungry prostitutes, to disciplined Yakuza gunmen and then a creepy sadist who would not be out of a place as a character in a 90’s era Spawn comic book. In true video game cut-scene fashion, bits of exposition are revealed between fights before another wave of enemies comes bursting through the door. This pattern continues until the final winner takes all boss fight with Taiko.

The “video gamey-ness” works because it teases out just enough of the story before pulling it away and immersing the audience in some over the top action set pieces. Lynch excels at the unenviable task of finding thrilling ways to keep ratcheting up the movie’s violence and intensity without hitting a plateau early on or exhausting the viewer. The film maintains a difficult balance between grounding the characters in enough humanity to make the audience care about them while not letting the story degrade into the type of melodrama that will arise in a film that incorporates sequences where the main character evades rockets launched from a bazooka with the alacrity of Neo dodging  bullets in The Matrix.

In an ideal world, a film like Everly would propel the 48-year old Hayek into the “Bad-Ass Liam Neeson” phase of her career. In order to beat out their competition for “quality” roles, female actors approaching 50 enter into the Hollywood equivalent of the Hunger Games. Ladies finding “the odds were never in their favor” are left to vie for the bountiful roles of sad moms, scared moms, angry moms, spurned lover (moms), grandmothers and police captains. Hayek carries herself with a swagger and charm that makes it easy to envision her as a mother in Central America, tracking down her kidnapped son in a spinoff of Taken. With appearances in films such as Desperado, The Savages and From Dust Till Dawn, she certainly has the “Bad-Ass” pedigree. Are action movie fans going to have to wait for someone to begin a kickstarter campaign to make it happen?

With box office shattering franchises like The Avengers:Age of Ultron and Star Wars:The Force Awakens right around the corner, Everly stands out for scaling back and proving there is a place for lower budget, action packed VOD experiences. Everly succeeds by taking such an over the top concept, compressing it and churning out such a succinct action film.

Make no mistake about it; this movie is a lot of fun. Big, Stupid, Fun. Much like Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, there is a pulpy, self-confident tone at the pulse of this action thriller that immediately informs the audience of what the next 90-minutes has in store for them. Everly defiantly flaunts its camp with the cocksureness of 80’s era Prince, taking to the stage in high heel boots, purple velvet and lace. If you are willing to buy into waves of killers coming after a woman trapped in an apartment, there are many elements of Everly that you will find highly entertaining. If you are that person in the audience that gets upset when they watch “fat” Steven Segal fight his way through a room full of eastern European soldiers with the ease and precision of a hot knife cutting through melted butter, then this film is definitely not for you.

Rating  7/10

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About the author

Victor Stiff

Born and raised in Toronto, Victor has spent the past decade using his love and knowledge of the city to highlight and promote significant cultural events such as TIFF, The IIIFA awards, and the Anokhi Gala. He is an avid reader of Sci-fi and Horror and constantly sits through indie film marathons in rabid anticipation of the genre’s next great film auteurs. He also contributes sci-fi and fantasy movie reviews to www.zone-six.net

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