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Review by: 
A.J. MacReady
Release Date: 
Anchor Bay
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Joe Lynch
Salma Hayek
Akie Kotabe
Laura Cepeda
Hiroyuki Watanabe
Bottom Line: 

If you're reading this site, you already know: there's just something special about a top-drawer exploitation flick. They take their core elements -- the ones that catch our attention -- and build upon them like a Jenga of asskickery. The great thing about it is knowing that with one simple shift or one wrong move, the whole thing falls over. But better than that is the rush of understanding that you're in safe hands...when you know it won't let you down.

Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2) possesses such hands. And his latest movie Everly will not let you down.

Everly (Salma Hayek, still as fiery and gorgeous as ever) is not having a great night. Actually, it's been a pretty shitty last 4 years for her, ever since a Yakuza boss named Taiko kidnapped her and kept her hostage as a sex slave in a loft apartment. She's finally been able to find a certain measure of help from a police detective not on Taiko's payroll, but he's suddenly incommunicado on the night she expects to be rescued...and worse, Taiko has found out about this. The movie opens right after she's been punished by his goons (in about as unpleasant a fashion as you'd imagine) and Everly's realized that her mother and daughter, who the evil bastard she's been enslaved by knows all about, are in danger. So, she's got to A) keep from getting killed by various assassins that Taiko is continually sending to her apartment and B) figure out a way to save her family.

Again, not a great night for Everly. And it keeps getting worse with every minute that passes.

With Everly, Joe Lynch kicks the door across the room and says "HEY, HOW YOU DOIN'?" with a serious intent to entertain, amuse, and at times even move his audience. The man is a genre lover first and foremost; this is a fact that could not be more clear from his katana-sharp direction and sense of humor (as anyone listens to his podcast with fellow champion Adam Green, The Movie Crypt, should know). Lynch has a fantastic eye for action, composition, and pace (much props to editor Evan Schiff in that department). The story he came up with -- ultimately written by Yale Hannon -- is as clean and clear as his original pitch: "Die Hard in an apartment." The fun for us is watching how he pulls that off. Wave after wave of gangsters, sai-wielding superhookers, and bent cops come and go at the pitch of a particularly caffeinated ADD-afflicted teen on a GTA rampage, and it's just a thrill to behold. If you had any doubt concerning Lynch's skills before, Everly should be more than enough to convince you.

I mentioned earlier that the flick has the ability to move you and I meant it; like all talented storytellers, Lynch understands that even in this kind of movie, if you don't give a flying fuck about the characters and their plight, there's no real stakes there. There would be absolutely no weight and instead just a parade of cardboard cutouts you simply wait to see shredded and pierced and hope that the way it gets pulled off entertains. There's more than that present in Everly, ranging from moments that Everly shares with a dying man on her couch that start in antagonism and end in a strange sort of respect and kinship to the scenes with our determined heroine, her mother, and daughter, virtually all of which are played completely straight and for real pathos. It is -- again -- a testament to Lynch's talent that he is able to juggle the tone of these moments directly alongside horrific violence, pitch-black laughs, and frenetic (but always well-shot, no Michael Bay bullshit here) action. It makes a big difference in the way the film manages to earn your investment, which is kind of the idea, and one I wish more filmmakers understood.

It must be said, however, that all of this -- the excellent score from the great Bear McCreary, the crisp cinematography from DP Steve Gainer (who should get MUCH more attention for his fine work, as he deserves every accolade he gets from film geeks in the know), the stellar craftsmanship of makeup FX designer Daniel Parker, not to mention the appearance and overall conception of a character known only as The Sadist -- would be all for naught if this wasn't anchored by a lead performance that could withstand the weight of all the gleeful insanity Lynch throws at her. Salma Hayek is the rock that allows the structure to stand tall. She takes all of it seriously in every dramatic, breathless moment that requires her to and perfectly employs a perfect balance of sarcastic, exhausted "what now?" sense of humor as needed throughout. Everly is tough but not superhuman. She is every bit a woman but, as she says herself in one of the best lines of the film (seriously, I cheered), "nobody's bitch." She's scared, she's hurt, but she won't quit. She loves her mother and her daughter and you never question her dedication or resolve for a second. She understands how to use a gun and can do so quite well but is no commando; she's just driven and smart and is more than willing to do whatever she must to survive. Everly is without a doubt one of my favorite characters Salma has ever played and I feel this is one of the best performances she has given to date; I'd love to see more from her in this vein, because the woman nails it.

There's no getting around the fact that this movie won't be for everybody. The (by design) feel of a videogame could get repetitive for some. The level of violence and gore could send some scrambling for the stop button. The weirdness of the Sadist section alone could turn some sensitive viewers off, and then there's the ugly knowledge of what Everly's had to deal with and has in fact just gone through the moment we fade in (in my opinion, Lynch deals with all this as tastefully as possible while still making sure we understand the horror that has transpired). Basically, it's an exploitation movie, folks. It's not going to be all puppy dog tails and ice cream cones; sometimes it's going to be severed heads, grenades, and exposed intestines...but it's a hell of a good time for those of you who dig this kind of awesome.

Radius-TWC and Anchor Bay's Blu-ray is a fine affair indeed: the 1080p 2.39:1 picture sports a great look with no discernable image issues and the 5.1 DTSHD-MA surround sound track snaps, crackles and pops in every action sequence and is clear as a bell for the quieter (such as they are) moments. So, sound and image are tip-top -- what's on the menu, bonus-wise? That'd be 2 commentary tracks and a Lynch-directed music video for "Silent Night." I confess that I haven't listened to the technical track (with Lynch and DP Gainer) yet, but the creative track (with Lynch, co-producer Brett Hedblom, and editor Schiff) is a constant stream of information, anecdotes, and the laid-back confidence of individuals who know exactly what they've unleashed on an unprepared world. For me, one of the most interesting pieces of info gleaned from this commentary is that Kate Hudson (?!?) was set to play Everly for a time but had to pull out (Lynch still got to meet Kurt Goddamn Russell, which I'd imagine pretty much made his year). It's also a blast to hear Lynch proudly point out that he fought to have the Dimension logo included at the top of the film as it's more proof that when all is said and done, Joe Lynch is One Of Us.

If I hadn't made it abundantly clear, I think Everly (both the character and the flick) is badass. A winning lead performance by a strong actress doing great work, a story that keeps you involved for 90 minutes that feel like 60, and a director putting everyone on notice that he's arrived on the scene with an infectious blend of excitement, carnage, and sliced-belly laughs. If you can handle this sort of thing and can enjoy it like the rest of us happily deranged souls do, you'll have a bloody good time. The rest of you, well...just leave quietly and DON'T disturb me. 

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