Directed By Joe and Anthony Russo
Starring – Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor
The Plot – An Army medic (Holland) suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder becomes a serial bank robber after an addiction to drugs puts him in debt.
Rated R for graphic drug abuse, disturbing and violent images, pervasive language, and sexual content
– Compelling performances. Both Holland and Bravo make the most of faulty characterization with a duo of emotionally wrenching performances that outline the perils of diminishment. For Holland in particular, it’s a skin-shedding turn that not only allows him to escape the clutches of a typecasting as Peter Parker, but also doing so with an enigmatic turn that is his single most emotionally expressive to date, taking us through a variety in backdrops that each play into the frail mentality that comes across so evidently in the character’s frail psychology. Bravo also continuously captured my attention, bottling an internal agony to addiction and regret that her character wears physically in the registry of her everyday appearance. This is my first experience with the works of Ciara, but I was thoroughly impressed with her small stature enveloping such an immense rage, giving us several moments of release that signify the relapse of this once ambitiously determined girl.
– Comfort zone. If the Russo brothers have attained any kind of merit in helming some of the biggest action movies of all time, it’s their ability to always return to the never-ending well to seek astonishment in an area where they do it best. While “Cherry” doesn’t require as much scale or devastation as those previous mentions, it does dazzle us with wartime sequences that are impressive to say the least. Everything from the immersive sound design, to the wide angle consistency, to especially the proper channeling for environment, feels exceptionally perfected in illustrating that far from home feeling that weighs heavily on Cherry’s consciousness, all the while making it inescapable for how the elements of the environment seem to follow these soldiers everywhere along the way. It proves that the Russo’s greatest strength is their eye for detail, but beyond that solidifies how the action genre should definitely be their first calling when taking on future projects of cinematic proportions.
– Appreciated levity. “Cherry” is mostly a psychological drama, but it’s one that comes with a few sprinklings of tension breaking dark humor that I did greatly appreciate. Because the entirety of this film is told from Cherry’s perspective, it’s unique to spot the tweaks that he makes mentally in rehashing this story, complete with business and product names that not only spur a satisfyingly comical instance, but also zero in on a bit of social commentary from the character that the audience can coherently interpret. These work as opposed to other wall-breaking ideas within the film’s problems because they play into the context of the scene and surrounding storytelling, and don’t halt progress on either to point them out along the way. This rewards audiences for paying attention, which isn’t always the easiest aspect of any production that is nearly two-and-a-half hours.
– Stirring score. Another element to the presentation that works despite the sometimes glaring problems of consistency in tone within the film, is the musical compositions from Henry Jackman, which hung over dramatic scenes like a constantly cloud of melancholy remorse. Jackman’s piano-dominated delves always feel every bit appropriate as they do rewarding to the context of the scene, fleshing them out with a layer of detection that audiences can capably interpret without feeling like they’re meandering or manipulative towards something that hasn’t materialized in visuals. In addition to this, nothing ever feels derivative or obviously underwhelming, despite the Russo’s asking much of him throughout this ambitious picture. Jackman studies Cherry’s plight with redeeming results, and because of such feels like one of the capable hands on deck who did their part in keeping this movie from reaching such shallow waters.
– Hometown connection. Considering most of this film was shot in and around Cleveland, Ohio, a big city about 35 minutes from my house, it was cool to see the abundance of familiar landmarks and imagery that found its way into the picture. Cleveland is certainly nothing new to the Russo’s, who have shot scattered sequences in three out of their four MCU movies here, but for “Cherry” it feels all the more evidently obvious, complete with freeway signs and establishing shots of Progressive Field, which the cinematography from Newton Thomas Siegel doesn’t shy away from. Like the city depicted in the film, Cleveland too is one that is unfortunately riddled by crime and drugs, but if we’re being honest it’s in those same problems where the movie feels most appropriately set, outlining the drug epidemic that is unprejudicial when it comes to geographic and class designation.
– Too long. It should come as no surprise that a 141 minute movie has pacing problems, but what is surprising is how they mostly feel aimed towards rushing matters, instead of slugging them. This is mostly evident during the film’s weakest first act, where Cherry meets and breaks up with a woman, dates another woman, quits school, gets a job, and joins the army in a matter of the movie’s first twenty minutes. The rest of the film eventually slows matters down, but the problems with the other two acts deal with an over indulgence of unimportant matters to the character and story being left in, ultimately making this feel like the worst kind of first draft script with still so much excessive fat to trim along the way. There is a good movie inside of this convoluted one that is dying to get out, but far too often in my experience I was left with several moments of tedious boredom, with sequences that never knew when to end.
– Over-stylized. It takes a lot to offend me with regards to a presentation. More times than not, I love that a movie’s creative impulse demands it seeks out an identity of its own, but the problem with “Cherry” is it never receives justification for such an exploration, and instead creates speed bumps of concentration-breaking production elements that add nothing to the experience. First is the saturation of red coloring that can be seen in the accommodating poster. This appears at the beginning of each of the six chapters that the movie’s story is condensed into, but then never again throughout. It’s obviously to articulate the colorblind emphasis that we are told about the character early on, but if that’s the case, why not make the entirety of this film red? Or even black and white? Why just a few meaningless instances? In addition to this, I HATED the way Holland would momentarily stop to talk to the audience. This is great in a comedy or spoof, but for a film as wrenching as one dealing with drug addiction, bank robbery, and PTSD, it undercuts the tension and urgency in each, and continuously broke my concentration whenever I got even ten minutes into a story. It breaks seriousness and attention in the area’s where it needs them most, and voids this film of the kind of dramatic circumstances that preserves stakes to the narrative.
– Reheated leftovers. Without question, my biggest obstacle, and one I feel that is most detrimental to the film is this attempt to tell a story about drug addiction, and how it feels like a greatest hits from other films who did it first and better. This is most evident in the structure, which is almost quite literally the plot of 1995’s “Dead Presidents”, but with half of the effectiveness of that film due to the many variety of themes working against it in this particular film. The dialogue itself does nothing eye-opening or innovative in terms of depicting an angle with addiction that is personal and unique to the many others previously depicted, and the audible narration itself from Holland is very exposition heavy in terms of all of the details about inconsequential characters who serve nothing of substance to the integrity of the direction.
– Lack of prosthetics. It’s difficult enough to make a babyface actor like Holland look even ten days older, but this production’s attempt at doing so, or lack thereof, is so laughably bad that it might as well not even been attempted in the first place. During a pivotal event in the final act of the movie, we are shown Cherry over the course of thirteen years, and this movie’s best attempt at visually telling that evolution is to put this awfully bad moustache on him, and ignore everything else about his complexion and balding hair patterns. This is only the worst offense, but not the only one throughout, as I felt the make-up on Bravo during sequences of her under the influence lacked subtlety, and only articulated depth because of the amount of influence that is quite literally caked onto her face.
– Tonally toxic. There’s a greater struggle at stake here between two brothers who feel like they each want this film to be something entirely different. For one half, the obvious; a drug-riddled nightmare into the underbelly of PTSD that many soldiers engage in upon return to society. The other? A stylized comedy that swallows much of the visual capacities of the movie in favor of elements of production that immediately make us think humor or silliness because of such. When you combine these sides together, they not only make for a consistency that is anything but, but also illustrate a mishandling for material that anyone who fought for our country should be appalled by, giving us a creative identity that never feels consistent as one, and instead feels like as many as three different films fighting for attentive control.
My Grade: 5/10 or D