Everly is a hard film for a progressive critic to write about. It is, to use a word hated by everyone, problematic. Everly essentially operates as a Quentin Tarantino fan film, and it uncritically apes some of the worst qualities of Tarantino’s films as well as other exploitation films. The movie unabashedly shows extreme violence, gore, and torture. Even abuse and sexual assault are portrayed; all the worst thankfully takes place off-camera, but at one point Everly listens to an audio recording of her own gang rape. There will be a point in this film where almost every viewer turns away in disgust. Is it Everly’s physical abuse at the very beginning of the film? Or the aforementioned audio of her gang rape? Or, as it was for me, the extended torture scene? Or a death that is too gory even by B-movie splatter film standards? The point where you say “this is too much” will vary from viewer to viewer.
But with these gigantic, gigantic caveats, I thought Everly was worth my time. Although Everly is knock-off Quentin Tarantino, knock-off Tarantino remains better than most movies. Joe Lynch’s camera provides enough verve and style to make mundane action sequences compelling. And even though most of its ideas are hardly original (like the juxtaposition of the Christmas setting with scenes of extreme violence), they provide some genuinely compelling moments. Selma Hayek’s performance also manages to turn the gross exploitation into something more, a testament to Everly’s will to survive. Her very name seems to be a pun on her stubborn determination to exist in the face of extreme adversity. Despite the horrific physical and sexual violence she undergoes, she never feels like a passive victim. I doubt Everly will be drafted into the canon of feminist heroines anytime soon, but Hayek’s portrayal makes her more than the sum of her sufferings.
Whether you enjoyed Everly or not says more about you and your own privilege than the movie itself. And, for better or worse, I enjoyed Everly.