RECAP: Everly

Everly (2014): Joe Lynch

Do you like Selma Hayek? Do you like samurai swords? Did you like Room? If you answered “yes” to all three, have a seat, open up that bag of freshly popped popcorn, and eat it fast while you watch this movie because it’s less than 90 minutes.

It’s so short because it has to be. The camera doesn’t leave the protagonist Everly’s hotel room until after the climax. Sometimes Everly leaves it, but not for long and not far.

ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: A sex slave named Everly kills a lot of folks from the cozy confines of her hotel room/prison.

Hero (7/10)

Salma Hayek hasn’t been in a hit in this decade. Does Grown Ups count? Does it have to? But I learned a lot about Hayek during and after watching Everly. Did you know that she will turn 50 in 2016? FIFTY. Has any human ever had better genes?

Oh right, I’m supposed to talk about the movie. Maybe I’m stringing this along because it was so short. The first scene is a black screen. We hear the screams of Everly and the sounds of men enjoying themselves.

She’s being gang-raped, tortured, or both, but we only hear it. Hayek sells the screams well, which she had to do because we are mercifully not shown the visuals.

We first see Everly in the bathroom just after she’s raped. She’s gotten a mural tattooed on her back. She goes to the toilet and draws out a plastic bag holding a gun, a phone, and a locket with her daughter’s photo inside. At first we don’t question the bag, but we soon wonder how she got it inside the room.

The movie withholds information until crucial moments. All we learn from the opening scene is that she can kill some people with a gun, her boss/kidnapper once loved her, and just about everyone in the city is eager to kill her.

Here’s her story: Everly was kidnapped four years ago by Taiko, some city crime lord, and sentenced to sex slavery inside a hotel room. Everly tells her mother that she has not left her hotel room in four years. She hasn’t seen her daughter walk or heard her speak. But somehow she knows that she loves Pinky Bear, because she has just such a bear ready to give her as a Christmas gift.

Everly has chosen this moment to strike against her enslaver because, as we learn from the early phone call, she has a detective who promised to help her. She’s expecting outside aid. That expectation quickly dies, but Everly is too far into the fight to stop.

Everly has world-class survival skills. I don’t mean Bear Grylls skills. I mean surviving-the-patriarchy skills. You must have a lot of tenacity, all the tenacity, to endure four years inside a hotel room, even ignoring the sex.

And she’s a smart fighter. She hides when she has to, uses guile when she has to, uses her position with Taiko when she has to. We must assume Everly is not in the best of shape, and whatever martial skills she possessed before have atrophied in the previous four years.

Hayek fully commits to this role. She plays Everly right in between vulnerable and strong, but she never shows much fear. Hayek looks annoyed during some scenes, but more at the bad guys thrown at her than script. I suspect Hayek enjoyed playing Everly the Criminal Slayer.

Villain (2/10)

Taiko is a Japanese crime lord who put Everly in her room. Most of what we learn about him comes from other characters and from his phone chats with Everly. He has his finger dipped in a lot of illegal pots: sex trafficking, human trafficking, drugs, maybe movie piracy.

He captured Everly four years ago, but he gave her a special place in his slavery empire. He loved her once, and so he doesn’t just kill her outright. He wants to see what she can do. She is alive for her entertainment value. So he thinks.

Taiko is not a physically imposing person. He strikes fear for the power he wields and the number of people who are willing to kill someone when he flicks his finger.

He sure is confident, though. After sending everyone he’s got at Everly, only to watch them die, he chooses to face her alone and with a sword. Sure, she’s tied to the bed by her neck, but she was also earlier inside a locked metal cage and she escaped that.

Taiko loves pain. Maybe more than The Sadist. He gets atop Everly and traces his knife down her back, ready to extract his tattoo of ownership.

We needed to see more activity from Taiko to really fear the guy. He could have brought in Maisey, Everly’s daughter, for some torture in front Everly, something psychological, since that seems to be his thing, to make the hero suffer.

Taiko reminds a bit of Zapp Brannigan, self-congratulating doofus general from the cartoon Futurama, especially in this clip.

Taiko himself was not scary enough as a villain. He didn’t seem to care much about what happened, as if he were only watching a TV show.

Action/Effects (7/10)

Well, what a ride we got. Everly outlasts wave after wave of prospective killer. The first group are her rapists. She kills them quickly and with little trouble. Next come the guards and neighboring sex slaves. These people are literally falling over themselves to kill Everly for the $60,000 price on her head. Two of the women shoot each other. Everly shoots a guard outside her door in the toe. That’s just the first 10 minutes.

The best scene occurs before Everly is tortured. From the security camera feed inside her room she sees about seven suited guys crowding into the elevator and one running up the stairs. She knows what she’s going to do.

First Everly has to get her mother and daughter out of the apartment. She rushes them to Anna’s room, Anna who is waiting for things to subside so she can kill Everly and get that 60 grand.

As Everly bangs on Anna’s door, the elevator’s floor signal dings as the carriage climbs the floors. Two. Three. Four. Finally, Anna opens the door and allows them inside. The elevator door opens. Simultaneously, the guy running the stairs enters the hallway, in front of the elevator. Everly blasts the stair climber with the shotgun. The bullet force shoves him into the elevator, blocking the exit of the other suits.

Everly unpins a grenade and lobs into the elevator. The dudes cry out. The doors slowly close as the grenade explodes. A spray of blood escapes the doors and covers the hallway, even a lightbulb, which shorts out from the blood. An applause-worthy scene.

The only crazy thing: why did Everly drop the shotgun in the hall? She needed that for the commandos that showed up. This was another good scene. Taiko sends in two teams of four. These guys are heavily armored and carry fully automatics.

Should be a cakewalk, but Everly has advantages. The commandos enter moments after an RPG has exploded half the room. Thus, there’s a lot of smoke and dust in the air, and the lights are all out. The commandos are wearing visors. Their vision is compromised. So they can’t see Everly dart amongst them. The camera work was very good in this scene, affording viewers fleeting glimpses of Everly, perhaps as good as what the commandos had.

Everly uses their poor vision to her advantage, shooting them one by one, often from the ground, until bravo team comes in. She offs two more, but the last two capture her long enough to tie her to the bed as Taiko commands.

The filmmakers wisely don’t give Everly long fights. Fight scenes are staccato, giving Everly an advantage against her stronger, more able-bodied attackers.

Sidekicks (4/8)

Everly, stuck in her room, gets some help from friends, family, and former foes. Emotional support comes from Dr. Dead Man (Akie Kotabe), a man present at the rape but who did not participate. Everly shot him in the stomach and she thought him dead, but he pops back to consciousness after she repels the first wave of attackers.

Dead Man can’t move from the couch, but he helps in other ways. When the shotgun guy enters the room, he distracts him by being alive just long enough for Everly to shoot him in the balls and head, and in that order. He suggests she destroy the tape the gangsters made of her rape.

He offers a lot of advice until Everly says, “I think I’ve had my fill of Buddhist proverbs for the day, dead man.” She does give him a glass of water. And it was his idea to clean up the place for when her mother shows up. His final act was to keep Everly’s daughter from opening the box with the detective’s head inside, also known as the Se7en Special.

Everly decides to bring her mother, Edith, and daughter, Maisey, to her. We assume they’ve had a tense relationship, until the mother tells us that they’ve had no relationship. The phone call Everly made shortly after killing the gangsters was the first call she made to her mother in years. Out of the blue.

Of course moms need more communication than that, but Everly’s mother is a crafty one. She finds three dead bodies in the bathtub and quickly concludes that Everly will not leave the hotel room alive. Just minutes before she was accusing Everly of being a junkie and a bad mother and questioning her own mothering skills.

Everly’s mom leaves soon, to hide in Anna’s room, but she later comes back in her daughter’s most dangerous moment, when she’s locked in the torture cage. Edith shoots two of The Sadist’s masked goons, enough bloodshed to allow Everly to escape. But Taiko’s sniper across the street soon kills her. Via Con Dios, Edith.

These sidekicks were used in interesting ways. Dead Man never moved from the couch. His head moved, maybe one arm, but his lower body was fully motionless during his 20 minutes or so of screen time. Edith was fiesty and wise, protecting her daughter when she most needed protecting.

Henchmen (5/8)

Everly is almost all henchmen. None are creepier or scarier than The Sadist and the Masochist. The pair show up after the hotel’s power has been cut. We first see them on the security feed walking into the lobby. The armored SWAT-type guys stand at attention as The Sadist and his four masked goons stroll between their honor guard. We don’t see them in full, so we know they’re gonna suuuuuck. For Everly.

The Sadist is a well dressed man and The Masochist is a nearly naked man trapped in a cage. This cage has metal points near his neck, affording him room to move, but any jerks will poke him painfully. The Sadist, after introducing them, jabs The Masochist with his cane. The latter calls himself “dog shit” and begs for more pain. It really is as unsettling as it sounds.

The Masochist is soon freed to run toward the double gun wielding Everly. She shoots him once, twice, three times. Each time he gets up, because gun shots are painful and he likes that kind of thing. She eventually downs him, but the four masked goons subdue her long enough for The Sadist to blow some powder in her face. He tells her, in Japanese, that they will make beautiful art together.

It’s clear that The Sadist believes Everly will be his masterwork of torture. She has spirit. He has acids, battery and sulfuric, and gasoline, and sodium hydroxide. And water, which he drips first in her eyes. Eye stuff always gives me the willies, so this moment unnerved me.

But not as much as his death. Edith surprises them and distracts the masked goons long enough for Everly to grab a key and open her cage. She shoots one of the goons. Together the two women pour a bottle of acid down the Sadist’s throat.

He starts crawling toward them, spitting out foamy acid and condemnations. Very quickly, in what was to be Everly’s fate, his intestines start dropping out of him. Then he dies. Bleck.

The henchmen had style and a sense of humor. They were scary and interesting where their boss wasn’t. Wisely, the filmmakers made them the stars of the villainous side.

Stunts (4/6)

What surprised me, after I figured out the movie would be set inside the apartment, was the lack of fighting. I expected Everly to run out of guns and have to rely on hand-to-hand fighting to endure. That was not the case. The longest fistfight occurs very early, when Everly’s next-door neighbor shows up with sais.

She kicks in the door and Everly shoots at it. The woman asks if she “shot her wad.” Everly pretends not to know what that means. The woman is quickly atop Everly, until Everly uses her leverage to force one blade edge into the other woman’s cheek. Ouch. Then she pulls it back out. Double ouch. But the woman is quickly killed.

The lack of hand-to-hand actually adds to Everly‘s verisimilitude. The only other person she fights is a single guy in the elevator, and she beats him using surprise. We can almost believe that one person could, from the confines of one room, kill all the people she kills, using guns.

After all, a lot of the men and women kill themselves through hubris or stupidity: The dog Bonsai’s handler and the two arguing hookers, for example. The two commando-style teams tried to kill Everly, but she was able to hide in the dark and dust and shoot them down. She could never have killed them with her fists. I’m assigning a good score for the movie’s wise underuse of hand fighting.

Climax (1/6)

Here’s where Everly fell flat. The opening scene was very strong. Everly kills a dozen people, some in first-person point of view. She kills a lot more people later. She’s tortured, and she kills those torturers.

At the end, of course, Taiko shows up. He’s well dressed, as we expect crime lords to be these days. He has two of his armored gunmen tie a rope around Everly’s neck and bed post. Then they talk for a while. A long (for this movie) while.

The talking was fine when it occurred between Everly and her mother. We needed the break there, and we needed to learn more about Everly’s history. When Taiko arrives, we are at an end. We already know he loved her, because he said so earlier, and that was why Everly was “luckier than most girls.” She got to live in America.

Taiko threatens Everly with his sword. He shows his skill when he slashes it at her face until it makes the slightest contact with her cheek, drawing blood. The sword sings as it moves, as if it is its own character, eager to draw blood.

Taiko ends up atop Everly’s back. He draws out a tanto, that suicide knife all samurai carry. (Side question: are there still samurai? I understand they were a class of rich warriors, faded out after the Meiji Restoration. Maybe Taiko’s really old.)

Everly’s back, as we saw in the first scene, is covered with an elaborate tattoo, one which apparently marks Taiko’s ownership of her. He says that removing a tattoo is infinitely more painful than applying one, as he drags the blade tip along her back. He even draws a little blood.

Everly is not idle. She’s finger walking toward a glass shard. She grabs it and jabs it into Taiko’s thigh. He backs away but draws a gun. There’s a good shot here of Taiko pointing the gun at her, where both the gun barrel and Taiko’s face are in focus, occupying the entire screen.

Everly has her back to him. She whips around and shoots Tazer nodes into Taiko, the Tazer used by the Sadist’s masked creeps. Taiko shakes and shimmies with electric current. How did she learn how to use a Tazer? Whatever. She’s got the upper hand. Everly tosses the tanto to him. “Die with honor,” she says. “Do it yourself.”

Taiko, now on his knees, holds the knife to his gut, ready to do that seppuku. But it’s a fake out! He throws the knife right into Everly’s bullet wound in her shoulder. It turns Everly around. She plucks the sword from the floorboard, sticks it behind her, and into Taiko.

Taiko must have had the world’s largest blood pack in his mouth, because when Everly starts turning the sword inside Taiko, that blood starts gushing. Everly turns away and, with the most satisfied, relieved expression, she pulls up the sword, cleaving Taiko in two.

Well, it’s been two hours. The hooker in the room down the hall, the one who promised she would return to kill Everly after two hours, has Maisey inside her closet. We get Maisey’s point of view this time, the first time the camera has left Everly’s apartment. She’s behind a door, but can hear Everly enter and slice the other woman with the sword.

Except it wasn’t Everly, it was The Masochist! Now he’s following Maisey down the hall, meat cleaver in hand, begging her to turn around so he can make mincemeat of her. Everly is on the floor outside her apartment, and she shoots dead The Masochist for like the fourth time.

Jokes (2/4)

No moment was funnier than when Everly kills the dog. Now now, settle down. Everly first sees the German Shepard, Bonsai, waiting in the street below. “I hate that dog,” she says. So now we hate it too. Bonsai appears again in the hall outside Everly’s room, threatening to maul Maisey. The dog’s handler commands it to kill and releases it.

Everly gets her daughter inside and chokes the dog. She crawls backward and the dog bites the leg of Dead Man, who has just died. She’s near the couch pillow, where she hid a grenade earlier. She grabs it, pulls the pin, and shouts, “Bonsai, ball!” throwing the grenade into the hall. The dog fetches as the handler pleads for it not to. They all explode.

Some other jokes are sprinkled in. Edith is about ready to walk out the door with Everly. Everly says, “This is not a telenovela.” Everly also tells Dead Man to give his boss a message. “Tell Taiko he can lick my balls.” That’s pretty good.

Setting (3/4)

The entire movie is set inside Everly’s prison/hotel room. Plays are often set entirely inside one room, because the conflicts are mostly cerebral. Setting an action movie in a room is much harder. A kitchen sink isn’t going to protect you much when an RPG is flying at you.

The only cover is the kitchen island placed near the door. This structure protects Everly from the two prostitutes competing to shoot Everly in the beginning. It doesn’t protect Edith from the sniper bullets shot from across the street.

The room provides a few places to hide guns. Everly puts a tommy gun inside the oven. She hides a shotgun under her bed and a grenade behind the couch pillow. She buries several bodies beneath the floorboards where she earlier had hidden a duffel bag full of money.

The room is not intimate, but we get to know it intimately. Dead Man, parked on the couch, makes that piece of furniture his domain. Interestingly, Everly’s bed is not fetishized. We know she’s done most of her “work” on the bed, and you can imagine it being the center of the action for its symbolic power. It’s basically ignored.

A full length mirror resting on the wall is used, mostly, to mark the progress of the fighting. Twice we watch a drop of blood run down the glass, a move that allows the movie to slow down, and also the indicate that Everly’s fight is not over.

The bazooka blast finally fells the mirror, and shortly after that Taiko walks in. This is the ending.

Commentary (1/2)

There’s too much violence and not enough runtime to say much about the world at large. Everly and Taiko draw attention to the ongoing tragedy of global human trafficking. The movie is not set in a particular city. (At least I didn’t recognize the skyline at the end.)

This was an interesting strategy. The movie seems to say that slavery could, and does, happen anywhere. I think the movie takes place in America. The paramedics and local police seem to be white dudes, and these professions draw on local citizens much more than the high level criminals, smugglers, and trafficked women prominently featured in the movie.

Offensiveness (0/-2)

A lot of trolls on message boards love to chime in about how Everly is “unrealistic.” WHO CARES. Period. Not a question.

They say it’s unrealistic that a woman could do such damage. Where are these people when discussing a gem like Commando? In that movie Arnold kills hundreds of professional soldiers, in broad daylight, just running around an open field. His only cover? A garden. The enemy must have fired thousands and thousands of rounds at him, but he isn’t shot once. Not once. Impossible. Still a great movie.

So yeah, Everly couldn’t kill all those people. No one could ever kill “all those people” in any action movie. Gimme a break. Gimme all the breaks.

All fictions require what Coleridge termed “suspension of disbelief”. The essential question to ask, when judging whether or not to accept a story, is not: Can the characters do this? The question to ask is: Would the characters do this?

Can Everly kill dozens of people to ensure her family’s safety? No. Buuuuut, can a Marine outrun a nuclear blast? Can anyone drive cars like the Fast & Furious gang? Can John Wick kill dozens of assassins? I can go on. The answer is almost always “No.”

Would Everly kills dozens of people to ensure her family’s safety? Yes. If the answer was “No,” the film would not work. At all.

Others

  • Movie opens with the graphics of four production companies. That cannot be a good sign.
  • Everly injury count: acid on leg, cut on left hand, cut on back, shot in stomach, shot in shoulder
  • Twice Everly puts on her high heels, ready to leave, only to have to stay inside. She kicks them off in annoyance.
  • She uses duct tape to patch up her initial wounds.
  • (-1) Everly’s first gunshot wound is a shot in the gut. Entry wound, exit wound, no blood. That one was hard to buy.
Summary (35/68): 51%

The harrowing opening moments of Everly allow us to fully enjoy all the people killed later. Well, not all. The other women in Everly’s place try to kill her, but they die humorously, not callously, softening their deaths.

Everly finds inventive and humorous ways to off her antagonists, something the movie had to do, when confined to a single room.

That said, the movie started hot and tapered from there. The torture scenes were gruesome, especially when The Sadist watched his guts fall out of him. But the ending was not the movie’s tensest moment. Though I enjoyed Taiko’s death scene, that was a problem I couldn’t get over.