Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Cherry tells the semi-true story of Nico Walker (Tom Holland), an Iraq war veteran who married his college sweetheart Emily (Ciara Bravo). Haunted by his time at war and riddled with PTSD, he starts doing hard drugs with his wife and turns to robbing banks to fund their newfound opioid addictions.
I am not sure how Anthony and Joe Russo decided on Cherry being their follow-up to Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing film ever made (without inflation). Comparatively, both films are narratively dense and have a plethora of characters populating every frame. The comparisons between both films end there because while Avengers: Endgame is fan-service-heavy, it is structurally sound, edited coherently and most of all, knows exactly what it wants to be. Cherry on the other hand, has absolutely no idea what it wants to be.
The Film jumps rapidly between “chapters” in Nico’s life, never spending enough time on any one section before barreling head-on into the next one. Does it want to discuss how emotionally eviscerated war veterans are failed by the very system that should be protecting them? Or does it want to be a treatise on the opioid epidemic and how quickly it can swallow up promising young individuals? I have no idea and neither does Cherry – it just keeps moving with no real sense of purpose or focus (the Russos sure do love playing-out as much as they can in slow motion though). It squanders any narrative momentum it musters up, and the way it peppers in odd satire and commentary should be clever but ends up being painfully distracting.
At the centre of Cherry’s madness is Holland. Mustache issues aside, he never seems to be on the same footing as the Film’s constantly pivoting tonal and narrative structure. He nails the scenes with the smart-ass quips (as you would expect from someone who plays Spider-Man), but lacks the right inflection and cadence to be an effective narrator. He knocks some of the more trauma heavy scenes out of the park, and then proceeds to overact his way through scenes of manic grandeur and paranoia. There is no consistency to any of it, and that becomes all too clear in how vaguely convincing he is as an addict struggling to find his next score. Holland really does try and I commend him for journeying out of his wheelhouse. Sadly, that does not matter much when the Film around his performance does him no favours and only really succeeds at constantly reminding the audience how woefully miscast he is.
There are some stylish flourishes sprinkled throughout Cherry’s gargantuan 140-minute running time and a few supporting performances that I wish were developed better (Michael Gandolfini, James’ son, chief amongst them). In the end however, Cherry just feels like a missed opportunity through and through. It wants to be the Russo Brothers’ answer to Goodfellas – fourth wall breaking and all – but has a habit of squandering anything good that happens within it. Holland gives everything he has to his performance, but is never in sync with the Film and is only vaguely convincing when he should be calculated and precise. I genuinely admire the audacity and ambition of the Russos to follow up Endgame with Cherry, and wish it worked a whole lot better than it does. The material here may have been better suited to a Mini-Series than a Movie. Or if that was not an option, it would have benefitted immensely from an additional polish or three to get its consistency in check.
CHERRY will be released in select theatres Friday, February 26, 2021,
and streams on Apple TV+ on Friday, March 12, 2021.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre.*