Tattooed prostitute Everly (Hayek) has crossed her employer, Japanese crime lord Taiko (Watanabe). Soon she finds herself under siege in a deluxe apartment building, forced to fight off increasingly proficient underworld goons.
On paper (and it likely took one side of a cocktail napkin to scribble down the whole yarn), Everly is a trashy treat. Santanico Pandemonium herself, Salma Hayek, as a gun-packing, gam-flashing one-woman army. A Die Hard-riffing location (tower block) and setting (Christmas). And an inexhaustible army of colourful foes, thanks to the never-not-fun-to-see-getting-slain yakuza. It’s hard to see how this wannabe cult classic could go wrong.
Sadly, it did. The opening sequence is an attention-grabber, introducing us to the heroine as she limps around a bathroom, bloodied and naked. But once she starts talking, the tension quickly sags. If you’re going to name your film after your heroine, she’d better be memorable. Yet Everly is thinly drawn and charmless, spitting out one-liners like, “That’s a lot of dead whores.” Worse still, she’s dumb: early on she makes a baffling decision, summoning her mother and daughter to her location for no good reason, a decision that proves confoundingly stupid. While Hayek is always watchable, this is a thankless role. You can see why original choice Kate Hudson dropped out.
The other characters aren’t much better, from Everly’s hapless mum (Laura Cepeda) to the sadistic big boss (Hiroyuki Watanabe), who spends much of his screentime doing Evil Bad Guy Laughter and reciting lines that sound like they were cribbed from Showdown In Little Tokyo. The one memorable antagonist is The Sadist (Togo Igawa), an acid-obsessed lunatic accompanied by his own kabuki-masked henchfreaks. But that sequence devolves, like many others, into grim nastiness. The gore effects (and this film is very, very gory) are excellent, but with a script this weak it’s hard to care much about whose face is being melted off.
Director Joe Lynch, who last brought us Knights Of Badassdom, throws in some decent flourishes, though a couple of whooshy fast-cut montages clearly owe a debt to Edgar Wright. He’s unable to do much, though, to pep up the action sequences. With unimaginatively choreographed set-pieces and a claustrophobic location that feels like a hindrance, not a boon, it’s a far cry from the pumped-up glory of The Raid. All things considered, an action movie of badassdom this is not.
Well done and well acted, its an attractive, appealing, involving adaptation, just not as iconic as the 60s film.