Salma Hayek Goes Badass
Main Cast: Salma Hayek
Director: Joe Lynch
It seems strange that it’s taken almost 20 years for actress Salma Hayek to finally become an action star. She seemed so obviously suited to it when she first caught the eye of American audiences in Robert Rodriguez’s 1995 film Desperado, and appeared set to embrace the part in that title’s 2003 follow up, Once Upon a Time in Mexico (at least until Rodriguez botched it all). How is it that Hayek, who looked so fabulous with a garter belt of throwing knives, never got the chance to really break badass until 2014, when she hooked up with Joe Lynch for riotously nonsensical yet highly entertaining film Everly? I can’t answer that question – but I can tell you that I’m glad it finally happened. Better late than never, and all that.
Hayek plays the title character in Lynch’s latest (coming on the heels of his disastrous experience with Knights of Badassdom – a film that was ripped from his control and released without his blessing), a woman abducted into the sex trade by a yakuza boss who now wants her dead. Unfortunately for him, Everly isn’t willing to go quietly into that goodnight.
Lynch’s film is a something a pastiche of other, better, movies – astute action film fans will spot nods to the work of Luc Besson, Quentin Tarantino, Takashi Miike, and Sam Raimi (amongst countless others – you could seriously make a drinking game out of spotting all the homages Lynch has littered throughout his film) in almost every frame of Everly, and while the experience rarely feels all that original, it’s the kind of film that seems perfectly suited for a rainy Sunday afternoon. Everly is a mindless action flick – the kind that used to go straight to the video store back in the good old days of VHS.
If you approach Everly looking for realism or themes – or even a logical plot – you’re going to come away from the experience disappointed. This is a movie that’s more interested in being audacious than smart – which occasionally gets it into trouble, because it’s hard to be especially audacious when you’re just aping the best moments from better movies that came before you. Hayek makes it work, though – proving that if this whole “female Expendables” thing ever takes off, she should be amongst the headliners of the cast. She might be the perfect female action star – as easy on the eyes parading around in tank tops and yoga pants as she is hard on the bad guys when the bullets start flying.
Of course, it would have been nice if Lynch and screenwriter Yale Hannon had bothered to explain how Everly, who’s a yakuza moll locked away in a fancy apartment sort of like Dae-su Oh in Oldboy, became so adept at firing guns and killing people, but this film isn’t concerned with that. It’s too busy trotting out quirky characters like a killer named The Sadist and his caged pet (aptly named The Masochist) to try and kill Everly once and for all.
Many of the complaints leveled against Everly are valid – the plot is threadbare at best, more of a high concept situation than an actual story. The film does often feel at least a little bit misogynistic. The script puts a young girl in danger to elicit an audience reaction far too often for my liking. And yet, despite these problems, I still liked Everly. Watching Hayek shoot yakuza thugs in the face is fun in the same way it was fun to watch Chow Yun Fat stylishly mow down Triad thugs in Hard Boiled. Both performers look great while doing it, too – although the violence in Woo’s film is certainly better choreographed.
Maybe the Hard Boiled comparison isn’t entirely accurate. In some ways, it’s really easy to look at Everly and see it as a spiritual successor to something like Sex and Fury, or Lady Snowblood, or even Thriller: A Cruel Picture (just minus the porny hardcore insert shots of that latter film). I like all of those movies, even though they’re definitely not for everyone. Everly is pretty much the same. If you’re looking for a feminist manifesto, this isn’t it – but if you like an action flick where a girl grabs a gun and gets busy, then Everly is a pretty solid way to kill 90 minutes. Now let’s hope more filmmakers hire Salma Hayek for their action projects. Maybe we can get her in a Marvel movie or something. I’d be okay with that.