Last year’s Keanu-Reeves-avenges-his-puppy’s-death action flick John Wick earned a lot of attention for being a return to form for the shoot ‘em up genre. Its above-average fight choreography, underground crime ring aesthetic, and relentless violence made it a crowd favorite, the thinking man’s mindless action flick. It turns out I’m not much of a thinking man. I liked John Wick well enough, but found it hard to match a lot of its audience’s enthusiasm. It was a decent throwback action flick, for sure, but felt more like a throwback to the late 90s than any other era, far from my favorite era of popular art.
Everly, on the other hand, has none of John Wick’s technical sophistication or cultural cachet. It shares its basic beautiful-person-kills-a-heap-of-faceless-strangers premise, but none of its finesse. I still enjoyed Everly more. I can’t help my trashy self. In Everly, a scantily clad prostitute played by Selma Hayek attempts to reunite with her family and escape a life of indentured servitude through an onslaught of gun violence. Cornered in a condo, Hayek’s Everly has to shoot her way through an army of Japanese gangsters, bumbling bodyguards, and fellow prostitutes to achieve freedom. If this sounds stupid & gratuitous, it’s because it most definitely is. Everly isn’t a film where any themes or ideas are explored in new or interesting ways and the violence is a mere exclamation point. It’s a film where violence is the entire point. It’s a film where a gun-wielding Selma Hayek in a negligee defiantly tells cartoonisly violent gangsters, “Lick my balls.” It’s a stupid film, but it’s also an awesome one.
I don’t mean to pull up any comparisons between Everly & John Wick to say one is objectively better than the other. It’s actually highly likely that fans of one would enjoy the other. I’m more drawing the comparison to point out something about my own tastes. Both Everly & John Wick put familiar, beautiful faces in a trashy cult movie scenario, asking their respective stars to shoot their way out of it; but while John Wick aims for greatness, Everly knows exactly what kind of trash it is at heart and searches for greatness in the gutter. That kind of deliberate simplemindedness isn’t going to go too far with certain audiences, but it does go a long way with me. Again, I can’t help my trashy self.
Side note: It surprised me that the film was set during Christmas. If you’re looking for some campy, violent counter-programming this holiday season, I highly recommend giving this one a spin.