Salma Hayek: Action Star?

Director: JOE LYNCH/2015

The new film Everly starts off with a camera angle inside a bathroom looking down on a closed door. Clearly, we, the audience, are meant to be the proverbial fly on the wall as a naked and tattooed Everly (Salma Hayek) comes running into the bathroom where she locates a cell phone and a gun inside the tank of the toilet.  What transpires over the next hour and a half is a full-throttle blood-fest from a script that was on 2010’s Blacklist, a list of most anticipated scripts that have yet to be made.

Originally, Everly was slated to star Kate Hudson in a career redefining role.  When she stepped out of the project, Salma Hayek stepped in, and at age 48, might find that she is in the midst of a career changing role herself.  Salma has always been around violence from the Robert Rodriguez films (Desperado, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) she has starred in, and more recently as a ruthless drug kingpin in Oliver Stone’s Savages.  Despite this, she has only lived on the outskirts of the violence in her films, either living amongst it as a victim, or in the case of Savages, directing the violence be done by those she employees while never fully embracing it herself.  With Everly, Salma Hayek has put both hands firmly on the gun and is pulling the trigger…or slashing the sword…or dispensing the acid….or……whatever is needed.

Everly tells the story of a woman who was taken against her will to be trafficked to a mob boss, named Taiko, who has chosen her as his own girl and set her up in an apartment building that is mostly a front for his prostitutes to do their business, often against their will. Everly, through being forced to offer her services at this particular apartment, encounters a cop who isn’t on the take, and he apparently offers her a way out from this personal four-year hell, where she can find her way back to her daughter who doesn’t even know her.

As we, the fly on the wall, witness Everly’s desperation in the bathroom and the pounding on the door for her to come out (where it sounds like many men are waiting to hurt her in many ways), we also are present for a staging ground for the violence that is about to come.

The rest of the film plays out as an over-the-top, violent exploitation film that is very familiar to Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse pictures in particular.  It is stylized, excessive, frantic, choreographed, and gratuitous. Director Joe Lynch weaves the camera in an out of the apartment, which as served as Everly’s prison. Like the fly on the wall vantage point that started the film, the camera will float in an out of the bullet holes in the wall and the destruction all around throughout the melee, until we literally fly away from the action in the end.  As a young filmmaker, he shows a lot of promise with this picture and creates a story that propels the action forward at a quick pace.

His inexperience also shows as obvious bullet holes in clothing disappear just scenes later. We also get some set pieces that don’t seem to fit the larger story, namely the weird torture device for the “Sadist”.  The torture is right at home in this film, its just the device itself has a feel of a very different movie. Lynch mostly makes it work, but it feels shoehorned into the scene. Many of the scenes are also reminiscent of other films, such as the lobby fight sequence of The Matrix, only substituted for the more narrow confines of a hallway and apartment and without as many agents. It’s feel also is a less comedic version of Shoot ‘Em Up.

Yet for any of its flaws, Everly still manages to sell itself as a fun and equally disturbing action flick where a 48-year old woman, who is still looking much more like her former 26-year old self, is able to dispense justice and payback on those who have held her against her will and taken everything from her.  Her showdown with her ex-lover, the mob boss Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe) is much like the final showdown between the Bride and Bill in Kill Bill Vol. 2 without the pleasantries or cool music.  Sword play does figure in here and a lot more violently too.

Everly film opens in Houston on February 27, 2015 as well as other select markets.  It is a small film, but with the right audience, it could lead to more films like it.  Right now, Salma Hayek is entering an age demographic that often closes the doors on females in Hollywood, especially in the action genre. But with Everly, she is busting those doors wide-open. And if we continue to be a fly on the wall of her career, and through watching this film, it may just be the place where we see Salma Hayek be re-branded as a bonafide action star.