Fantastic Fest Review: EVERLY Is A Small But Fun Action Blast

Salma Hayek is a badass.

Everly is a film in which Salma Hayek must stay alive in an apartment while confronting wave after wave of increasingly volatile and vicious Yakuza gangsters. It is pretty much as awesome as it sounds.

I figure that’s about all the review anyone really needs, but I’ll keep going anyway because I honestly don’t mind talking about how much I enjoyed this film. High concept, bottle-episode type movies like this always appeal to me, but that doesn’t mean they always succeed. Everly provides an exemplary case. It never slows down narratively, it never gets boring, and it never fails to increase the stakes as it goes along.

Hayek’s Everly is already pretty far up shit’s creek when we first see her, and things progress naturally from there, providing us with minor bits of exposition as we go along. By the end of the film we do have a satisfactory story, but director Joe Lynch knows that’s not what we came for and manages to keep rising action and narrative matched throughout without super long breaks for talking. This is essentially a one-act movie, so I can understand people getting annoyed by not knowing Everly’s full situation until more than halfway through. But that feeling of constant narrative discovery also helps keep things from growing stale. All you really need to know going in is that Everly’s stuck in an apartment. Seemingly the entire Japanese Mafia wants to kill her. She doesn’t want to die.

You can fill a ninety-minute long film with wall to wall action, but that doesn’t mean it will be good. Even the world’s biggest action fan will get bored of watching a lame shootout after a while. Everly doesn’t have this problem. Her enemies keep changing with each wave, either on a conceptual level (maybe she fights female assassins; maybe she takes on a creepy torturer), or in terms of sheer firepower (this apartment gets fucked UP). As the story progresses, the action manages to pick up emotional intensity as well.

Everly also succeeds thanks to healthy doses of humor, particularly in the first half. Tonally, some of this humor gets goofy enough that it might not agree with some viewers, but I loved it. Had Everly tried to go hardcore or pretend like its setup wasn’t just a little bit silly, it very likely would have suffocated on its own seriousness early on. Instead we get to have a movie that is both awesome and fun.

Obviously, a massive percentage of the film falls upon Salma Hayek’s shoulders. She doesn’t let it down. Hayek at times makes her exasperation a bit broad and as an action avatar tends to err on the cartoony, campy side. But she lends real pathos to the emotional beats (which rely 100% on her to work), and, frankly, looks extremely cool while shooting a machine gun. If there’s any justice in this world, Everly should rocket Hayek into the still unfortunately small female action star pantheon.

I loved Everly, and honestly have a difficult time imagining others not liking it as well. Without going too far overboard into the nonsensical or absurd, but also without making itself too serious to enjoy, it remains a blast from beginning to end. This is the movie you want it to be.