Friday, 21 August 2015


everly has to be one of the most insane films i’ve seen in a while. sure, it starts off straightforward enough. the abused girlfriend of a yakuza boss shoots a bunch of guys sent to kill her and then has to defend herself against a bunch more guys, whilst also trying to protect her mother and daughter. in doing so she faces gun-toting prostitutes, rabid dogs, and a particularly creepy sadistic torturer with some very odd henchmen, among others. oh yeah, and it's pretty much all set in one room.

everly doesn’t exactly fit into one particular genre, veering between a contained action movie and rape-revenge horror film. the rape-revenge sub-genre is a complicated one, and worth bringing up in relation to how the film was received by critics. feminist film critics have often recognised the progressive nature of films like last house on the left or i spit on your grave, and yet at the same time criticised the portrayal of women as perpetual victims and the fact that they are ultimately forced to use their sexuality as a weapon. recent attempts at films in this genre have not been well received as filmmakers have tended to take anything interesting and progressive out of the narrative and focused entirely on the rape and the violence. thankfully, everly doesn’t fall into this trap and manages to keep its head well above the murky exploitation water.

while it opens with a sexual assault (which, crucially, we do not see), everly doesn’t dwell on what’s happened to the main character and focuses instead on what she is doing to move forward. it’s not about the rape, and it’s not even really about the revenge, it’s about survival. more than that, it’s about the survival of three generations of women. as a character, everly is never put in a situation where she has to use her sexuality to survive and instead relies on her instincts and the tools she has to hand. while the film is certainly presented via the male gaze, there is some effort to subvert that at times. a shower scene, for example, ends on a close-up of a gaping gunshot wound thus turning a moment of voyeurism into a moment of gore in what feels like a direct challenge to the audience.

many of the reviews of everly have really taken issue with the violence against hayek’s character in this film, and unfairly so. of course violence against women has to be taken seriously but really doesn't all violence in movies have to be taken seriously? and if that's the case why the fuck does everly receive more righteous condemnation than something like the mission impossible movies, which are considered harmless fun? in a lot of reviews the fact that everly is tortured and generally treated like a punching bag is brought up in a way that suggests we as an audience are supposed to take some kind of pleasure from seeing this. these people do not understand how films work.

let’s take die hard as an example. in die hard, bruce willis spends almost the entire film in a vest while his body is pummelled and shot at and he suffers all kinds of degradation and punishment. is our reaction to die hard disgust at the exploitation of the male body, or at the reinforcement of the idea that violence against men is okay? no, we watch die hard thinking ‘i can’t fucking wait until john mcclane gets to kick some ass in return for all the shit they’re putting him through’. it’s the same way we watch the rambo movies, the same way we watch any jackie chan movie or more recently anything with jason statham. a key element of the action film is that the hero, male or female, will be physically punished before they can triumph. action movies are about physicality and the physical strength of the hero, so of course that strength has to be tested. but if you replace that hero with a woman and put her through the same trials you would subject a man to, the critics, mostly male, decide to be pissed off about it. i mean, let’s flip this around. if everly featured channing tatum running around an apartment in his underwear, would there still be an issue?

i’m not saying that everly is a feminist film, and in some ways one of the things i like about it is that it’s not sucker punch .i.e. it’s not pretending to be an empowering experience for the women in the audience in a way that ends up being incredibly patronising. everly is an action film, and it’s appealing to an action film audience without caring whether that audience is male or female. feminism is about equality, not superiority, and everly as a character doesn’t experience anything on screen that we haven’t seen done to a million male action heroes, from james bond to john rambo.

sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant, and i’m kind of missing the point. there are some truly insane and imaginative moments in everly, and it’s all held together by a performance from hayek that brings a level of emotional depth to the film that i wasn’t expecting. more than anything, i badly wanted everly to survive and in that respect the film really worked for me

if you want to see something visceral, exciting and a bit different you should definitely check this out.


  1. I just followed you back on Twitter and found this blog. I'm loving your reviews and YouTube videos! Glad you followed me. :)

    Tony (@rockhollywood8 on Twitter)

  2. thank you, and thanks for checking out the blog!