I’m all for Tom Holland and the Russo brothers spreading their creative wings and trying to do more than Marvel blockbuster films, but maybe they should choose better projects than this one.
“Cherry” is based on the popular semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Nico Walker. Tom Holland stars as an Army veteran who battles PTSD and an opioid addiction, and resorts to robbing banks in order to pay for his habits. Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Michael Rispoli, and Jeff Wahlberg also star while Joe and Anthony Russo direct.
The Russo brothers began their careers with small comedies but are best known for directing several installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the two best films of the franchise “Captain America: The Winter Solider” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” They have branched out into the action-thriller genre in producing roles with “Extraction” (starring the MCU’s Chris Hemsworth) and “21 Bridges” (with the late/great Chadwick Boseman), but this marks their first directorial effort outside the MCU in nearly 10 years. There are flashes of inspiration and style, but overall “Cherry” is a misstep on nearly every level.
Tom Holland quickly became a fan-favorite after being a scene-stealer as Spider-Man in “Captain America: Civil War” and has since grown a large fanbase. He continues to charm as the superhero but has also tried to branch out into more serious films, including this past fall’s “The Devil All the Time.” Holland is undoubtably a talented actor and will one day get his big awards, but that won’t start with “Cherry.” He is asked to convey a lot of emotions- love, scared, scarred, angry- but is let down by a very hacky and juvenile script. Some of the lines that Holland is forced to deliver are just too awkward or unnatural to be taken seriously. It is nowhere near a bad performance, Holland has some moments where he carries himself well, but this would be a tough task for any actor to sell.
The screenplay was written by Angela Russo-Otstot (the director’s sister) and Jessica Goldberg, and it is, simply put, not good. There are 4th wall breaks (until there aren’t), awkward narration (until there isn’t), and unnecessary use of profanity (“you want me to punch this guy in the d*ck?”). It jumps around time liberally, hurting any real sense of momentum or continuity, and there are really no redeemable characters in this entire ordeal. I’m not sure how loyal of an adaptation this was of the book, but it in no way made me interested to read it.
On top of the random choices from a narrative perspective, the Russos chose to use random moments of slow-mo, big words on-screen, and not-so-subtle commentary (one of the names of the banks Holland robs is called “Sh*tty Bank”). It makes the entire film come off like a pretentious student project, and for having directed the “Avengers” films that have such vibrant characters and massive scopes, there is very little trace of either of those things here. The only real compliment I can give the direction is towards the very end the bank heist scenes have some tension.
“Cherry” could have maybe been worth the mildest of recommendations if it was a 100-minute movie about a PTSD veteran who robs banks, but coming in at a pretentious and bloated 141-minute runtime there isn’t a real reason to watch this. Maybe if you fast forward past the first hour where Holland is a lovesick puppy dog awkwardly jamming exposition down our throats you can find some enjoyment, but otherwise this film is swing and a miss Oscar bait. Anthony Russo said that the pair made this film as part of the “one for them, one for you” Hollywood mantra, but the end result is more like “one for them, one for nobody.”
Critics Rating: 4/10