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Salma Hayek kicks all of the ass.
Hey! If my voice sounds a little strange, well, I've... still got this cold. Yeah, I know. We'll get through this together.
Y'know the Wrong Turn movies? That mostly useless/disposable Texas Chainsaw knockoff series with the cannibal redneck mutants? Yeah. They're all pretty horrible... except the second one, which is awesome. Seriously - the gore was better, the action was better, the characters were better... if not for that *amazing* The Hills Have Eyes remake, Wrong Turn 2 would be the best movie in its genre in the 21st Century.
Anyway, the guy who made it is director Joe Lynch, who should be a lot better known than he is. He was supposed to break big with Knights of Badassdom last year, but the movie was taken away from him by producers and re-edited, and who knows when the REAL version is going to come out. Too bad, but for now he's got a NEW movie out called Everly that debuted last week in a Video On Demand run before a presumed theatrical release in February.
And Everly... kicks some serious ass.
The basic premise? Well, it's The Raid but in reverse: Instead of a guy trying to fight his way through an army of armed enemies to escape an apartment, Salma Hayek is a woman trying to fight off an army of killers trying to get INTO an apartment. That's... pretty much it. There are more wrinkles and specifics to the story, but it basically boils down to a one-woman tower-defense game on film - with the added novelty of being an action movie from a director more associated with the horror genre; so the shooting, slashing, hacking and exploding are A LOT messier and gooier than you might be used to from even the more extreme side of conventional action cinema.
Lynch's horror roots are most obvious - and also most welcome - early on, as the film's staging displays a refreshingly nasty focus on the bloody aftermath of each battle sequence. As each new wave of killers - from gunmen to gangsters to bounty-hunting hookers to bad cops to a tactical-assault team to... well, you'll see - arrives, the amount of blood, guts and corpses left laying around become important parts of the next battle's geography action-choreography. It's a fiendishly clever conceit, making sure everything stays consistently grotesque and also keeps the single-location staging fresh and surprising.
The actual story details? Hayek's Everly is a woman who's been held captive in an apartment as the sex-slave of a ruthless Yakuza boss who, as the film opens, has just learned that her one chance to escape via operating as a police informant has been uncovered - meaning that instead of a rescue, her owner has now placed a bounty on her head that an entire city's worth of gangsters, thugs and killers are keen to collect. Her goal: Survive long enough to (somehow) get a cache of getaway money to her mother and the daughter she's never really known. To pull it off, she'll have to survive a constant stream of would-be bounty-collectors, starting with the other women in the apartment (turns out it's actually a Yakuza brothel) and moving upward through common thugs, Yakuza heavies and some truly outlandish torture-specialists.
I imagine the often abrupt shifts in tone are going to be a stumbling-block for a lot of audiences, though it's one of the aspects I happened to enjoy the most. The premise doesn't allow for a gradual progression of... anything, really, so the "funny" or at least "absurd" parts, the dramatic parts and the hard-action beats often occur right next to one another or at the same time with occasionally jarring results - i.e. a violent life-or-death fight scene finishing in on a note of bloody slapstick comedy because... well, it's a great kill and we had to stick it somewhere.
Me? I found myself taking it all in stride - the presence of Yakuza gangsters in an otherwise Western setting feels pretty clearly like an early clue from Lynch to fellow extreme-cinema aficionados that Everly's intended cinematic lineage leads directly back to the infamous gangster/horror/action/black-comedy hybrids of notorious Japanese auteur Takeshi Miike; so I wasn't just prepared for a lot of what eventually turned up - I was hoping for it. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
I think it has a few problems at the tail end. For all the buildup, the final bad isn't as interesting or intimidating as he needs to be, and unfortunately the drawn-out final confrontation can't seem to find nearly as many interesting ways to distract you from asking why they don't just finish Everly off at one of the myriad moments where they have a wide-open shot at doing just that. It's hardly a deal-breaker - I mean, if we threw out EVERY action movie where the bad guy won't shut the hell up... geez! - but it feels like the film is one stronger finish away from being an all-time great and doesn't quite stick the landing all the way.
Bottom Line: The action is great, it's joyously gory as hell, it's endlessly inventive and how often do you see women of color in this kind of a lead role?
Reccomendation: The movie kicks ass, go see it.