Cert – 18, Run-time – 2 hours 22 minutes, Directors – Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
An Iraq War veteran (Tom Holland) finds himself returning to financial struggle and drug addiction, turning to robbing banks to cope with both.
For the Russo brothers their latest directorial feature, Cherry, is a vast tonal shift from the blockbuster heights with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Alike to Spielberg going from Jaws, Indiana Jones and E.T. to The Color Purple, or Scorsese turning from The Departed and Shutter Island into Hugo (or even The Wolf Of Wall Street after that). Cherry is a gritty mixture of genres as it tells its story across its various chapters, each with a new style and feel to them. It’s certainly something more intense and different from the duo, and especially from lead Tom Holland – his take on a drug addicted Iraq War veteran bank robber is far from his take on everyone’s favourite friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man.
Holland is strong in this leading role, as we watch his character journey through a downward spiral of destruction. The film starts off as a high-school/ college romance between him and girlfriend Emily (Ciara Bravo). However, when she breaks up with him he joins the much less comfortable conditions of the army, eventually being sent off to fight in Iraq. During action sequences in the seemingly never-ending dusty landscapes of the Iraq desert there seem to be clear inspirations from films such as Platoon. It’s just one of many films that jump out over the course of the 142 minute narrative. Each chapter appears to have its own style and identity. A new set of techniques to get across points. While we initially begin with Holland’s voiceover and fourth wall breaks these are gradually dropped as the film goes on in favour of gritty realism, as he begins to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on returning home.
Because of this Cherry (Holland’s character) develops a drug addiction on returning home, his re-blossomed relationship with Emily becoming increasingly damaged as she too becomes reliant on heroin. For the most part this is the most that Bravo has to do in the film. It appears that screenwriters Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg want to focus on Cherry himself, after all he is the titular character (the story is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Nico Walker, entitled Cherry), and aren’t always sure on what they should do with Emily. This especially being the case when Cherry turns to robbing banks in increasingly planned (although not always well executed) attempts. This includes him going from his regular clothes and stammering his demands to staring down the member of staff with his demands written on a dollar bill, in a baggy suit that makes him look as if he’s walked off the set of Bugsy Malone.
As the situation gets worse, and you gradually get used to the change in tone (often it takes a bit of time to settle in to the feel of a new chapter) to that of a crime/ heist film, the bank names get increasingly aggravated. From “USPrank” to the likes of “Sh!ttyBank” and “Bank F*cks America”. Throughout it’s Holland’s central performance that remains consistent and helps to capture the tone of not just the individual segments but the overall character and story, and through the large amount of techniques that make up the scene to scene basis of the film he keeps something the same that the viewer can follow. There are some good ideas and inspirations throughout the film, and eventually each chapter has its moment, however sometimes it just takes a while to get there due to the change in tone that they provide.
Tom Holland is strong and consistent in the leading role of a varying film. Changing genre, style and techniques from chapter to chapter, it’s overall good but takes a few minutes to settle in to each new genre.