Everly is an undeniably enthusiastic appraisal of Salma Hayek’s body; the actress hasn’t been ogled by a movie camera this ferociously since her performances in Robert Rodriguez’s early comic thrillers. The film opens with an overhead shot of Hayek’s Everly naked, positioned in such a manner as to reveal a titillating portion of buttock as well as a shapely back that’s emblazoned with an elaborately large Japanese tattoo. Everly eventually locates some comparatively chaste lingerie, which will be the entirety of her clothing for nearly a third of the film. Well, lingerie, and a necklace that dangles from her neck, fashioning a through line toward her cleavage. Occasionally, she flirts with high heels, but discards them as impractical for wearing while battling the endless mob of American prostitutes and Japanese goons who storm her apartment to kill her. Eventually, Everly deems the lingerie equally infeasible, switching to yoga pants and a fitted, comely tank top.
There’s nothing wrong with a film that’s made to appreciate someone’s beautiful body and heightened movie-star charisma; it’s one of the oldest and most primal pleasures of the movies. But Everly’s gleeful misogynist braggadocio is a buzz-kill, and that cruelty perverts the appreciation, which becomes leering. After a while, you may find yourself growing protective toward Hayek in a fashion that’s unintended, because director Joe Lynch’s casually juvenile debasements are below her. There are several punchlines centered on characters remarking that there are a lot of “dead whores” piled up in the film’s one-set apartment, and this is meant to be cute in its blunt dehumanization, which relies on the disgusting reasoning that prostitutes aren’t real people. Almost every woman in this film is dressed up in some sort of fetish get-up. Granted, the apartment is a portion of a high-end brothel, so that might scan, but Lynch shows no respect for the prostitutes, who exist as moving targets to be quickly masturbated to before they’re unceremoniously mowed down.
As a point of comparison, consider the Kill Bill movies, which Everly’s plot very deliberately resembles. Those films aren’t without their ugliness, but Quentin Tarantino undeniably esteems all of his female characters with reverence bordering on awe. It’s fetishistic awe, but the respect is infectious and legitimate. Lynch’s contemptuous regard for most of his female characters, who barely have names, is off-putting, and his attitude toward Everly, at best, merely exhibits obliging indifference toward the social trap with which she finds herself. In fairness, the men, racist Japanese clichés given to fondling their samurai-sword phalluses, aren’t accorded any preferential treatment; this is an equal-opportunity freak show.
Film culture has grown overly preoccupied with tsk-tsk-ing movies for breaches in political correctness, but Everly’s ugliness is stifling; it’s a decidedly unfeeling male fanboy film in the worst sense of the phrase. Lynch isn’t enough of a craftsman to distract you from his and screenwriter Yale Hannon’s lapses in judgment either. As a thriller, Everly’s gracelessly violent and repetitive, and its stakes are flimsy. It resembles The Raid: Redemption in the video-game structure of its narrative, as each round of goon-killing resembles a stage that takes Everly closer to the big bad. The violence is occasionally jolting in a WTF sense, but it’s weightless and overly informed by the filmmakers’ self-conscious desire to render something cultishly badass. Which is to say that Everly is yet another boring ode to heavy breathing that’s offered under the hypocritical pretense of celebrating female empowerment.