The Russo brothers have found mainstream success after directing the box office-smashing hit, Avengers: Endgame. Their latest project comes to us in the form of Cherry, a crime drama starring Tom Holland as an unnamed Army veteran who becomes addicted to opioids and resorts to robbing banks to support his dangerous habit.
Cherry is quite a departure for the directorial team, as they are primarily known for their work in the action-packed blockbuster genre. The same can be said for leading man Holland, an actor best known for portraying Spider-Man, but has proven himself to be more than capable of dramatic material in last year’s The Devil All the Time.
Much of this film is a showcase of their talents. This movie tells a mildly interesting tale that feels quite unpredictable for the most part. While at one point, it becomes easy to predict how the film will end, the unpredictability lies in what will happen during the film’s second act.
Since the Russos have worked with Holland before, their relationship shines in this film as they bring out a fantastic performance from him. Holland vanishes in this role where he must balance out many different aspects of his performance.
The film takes place over a large span of time, beginning with Cherry as a high school student and ending with him many years down the road as an adult. Holland portrays the character perfectly at all ages, displaying the wide-eyed innocence of a teenager and the tortured pain of an addict suffering from PTSD.
Ciara Bravo is also magnificent in this role. While I personally know of her from her background in Nickelodeon TV movies such as Swindle and Jinxed, she is beginning a smooth transition to adult roles. Her character, Emily, serves as Cherry’s foil and love interest, and the two leads command the screen.
Parts of the film can feel inspired by the stylings of Martin Scorsese movies, as there are times during the bank robberies when Cherry will turn towards the camera and give us an inside look at how robberies work and how he pulls them off.
While the film is anchored by its incredibly natural, believable performances, there are a few missteps that hold the film back from being an instant classic. The film has a bit too much narration, which can feel like a tool used to spell out certain emotions and events rather than showing them to the audience in quieter, subtler ways and allowing the audience to connect the dots.
Furthermore, the Russos do a much better job in their smaller moments than their bigger ones. A scene near the end of the film shot entirely in one take works very well at conveying the protagonist’s powerful emotions and the event in the story.
However, the film works much less in their more stylized moments. The editing of certain sequences feels very offbeat and some camera movements and setups can feel very distracting. It can be difficult to forget that you are watching a fictional narrative because of how the camera is placed.
The camera doesn’t quite disappear in the scene; instead, we can almost see the DP and the cinematographer setting up each shot due to the over-stylized choices with the lenses and composition. However, despite certain directorial decisions and a somewhat slow narrative, this is an enthralling film.
Holland and Bravo are phenomenal in this movie as they portray very damaged people. They are giving career-best performances in this film, and the fact that it is based on a semi-autobiographical novel makes the film’s events more shocking. Cherry is a flawed film, but it offers quite the ride.
Grade: ★★★✬☆ [7/10, B-]
Cherry will premiere in select theaters on February 26, 2021, and globally on Apple TV+ on Friday, March 12, 2021.
Rating: R for graphic drug abuse, disturbing and violent images, pervasive language, and sexual content