February 26th, 2021
STARRING: TOM HOLLAND, CIARA BRAVO, JACK REYNOR, FORREST GOODLUCK
DIRECTED BY: ANTHONY RUSSO, JOE RUSSO
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The rollout of the Russo brothers film Cherry was, to put it mildly, not good. The poster was released, but something happened with the file or graphic and the word Cherry looked like the word “Cher” or “Cherk”. It was a mess. The online world jumped on it to poke fun. On top of that, the poster had the FYC label for Best Picture, which was a strange attempt, considering it was not mentioned much in the months leading up to the award season. Sadly, Cherry is also not a good movie either, with an effort to be a long epic about a soldier in the Iraq war, his post traumatic issues, and how it leads to his nasty drug addiction. It features a strong performance from Tom Holland, shedding his Spider-Man shadow to play the title character Cherry, but it’s not nearly enough to save this flop.
If there are a few positives outside of Holland, it’s an interesting way for the Russo brothers to tell a story, which resembles a bit of an assembly line. We start at one point and the camera moves left to right as we go through Cherry’s life. The first image is of Cherry at the end, delivering a narration and taking us back to the beginning. We learn about his life in Cleveland, OH, surviving with friends in high school, their comradery over social drugs, and his eventual fun in college with his girlfriend Emily (Ciara Bravo). But when the happiness with Emily seems to be coming to an end, Cherry rushes to enlist in the Army to become a military paramedic. This choice will exacerbate his life, pushing the couple to marry quickly before he leaves for Iraq, and sending him into the violent trauma of war. The military service is a painful two years, but when he comes home his struggles begin, with a dive into heavy drug use, and robbing banks to score more cash for drugs.
It’s hard to explain exactly what the Russo brothers were trying to do here. There seems to be an inspiration to mix Jarhead or American Sniper with Requiem For a Dream, explaining how the U.S. Army takes men and women under their wing, under the guise of a patriotic duty, and then leaves them alone to survive without a hand of support. An odd touch is that every bank Cherry robs has names like “Shitty Bank” or “Capitol None”, which is a subtle way of blaming Wall Street. The story is based on the novel by Nico Walker, with the screenplay written by Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg, and it fails to reveal anything about these characters outside of their issues. Parents are non-existent. Other characters make zero impact. The narrative structure is broken up in chapters, with a prologue and an epilogue, which only prolongs the drag on the narrative. By the time Cherry arrives at anything exciting, it’s when Cherry’s drug use and bank robbing are natural extensions of his character.
Typically stories about drug use can elicit a reaction from me, where the narrative about addiction can be an open vein of honesty on the issue. I think the attempt for the Russo’s is to make a war veteran tale similar to Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy, which becomes obvious when Cherry and Emily both become destroyed by their need for heroin. The only tangible character arrives in Jack Reynor’s Pills & Coke- yes, that’s his characters name- as Cherry’s drug dealer, too smart to not know how to get his drugs, but too dumb to realize he’s on the thin ice of life. And even then Cherry is too dull to keep interest and not dark enough to feel sorry for any of the characters. There’s a strange feeling that for a drug addict, Cherry’s life is not truly bad because Holland never loses his pretty looks, or hits rock bottom till the story is over.
There are a myriad of problems with Cherry, but overall it’s boring, and lacking in a single character to care about. Poor Ciara Bravo feels miscast in the role, becoming her own kind of drug addict, but is used more as a crutch for Holland’s Cherry to react off of. And after all of those issues, Cherry manages to have an even worse, borderline predictable ending, that had more corn than an Indiana farm. The Russo brothers had great success with Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, but a movie as bad as Cherry makes you wonder if they could do anything outside the guise of a hero’s tale. This Cherry is a bomb.
CHERRY WILL PREMIERE THEATRICALLY IN CHICAGO ON FEBRUARY 26TH AND GLOBALLY ON APPLE TV+ ON MARCH 12TH, 2021.
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady