Cherry marks AppleTV+’s first real big blockbuster movie to date. The streaming platform has had a lot of success with it’s television projects (including The Morning Show, Servant, and the Golden Globe-winning, Ted Lasso), however, has yet to have a real big success with any of it’s movies. With Cherry, we see blockbuster directors, Anthony and Joe Russo – previously key directors of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – returning to the film world for the first time since crafting the biggest movie of the 21st century, Avengers: Endgame.
Based on the real-life story of Nico Walker and a memoir based on his life, the film centres on Cherry (Tom Holland), a young man and former army medic, who struggling with PTSD, turns to drugs to ease his troubles. In order to support his addiction, he turns to a life of crime – robbing a series of banks with help from his friend, Pills and Coke (Jack Reynor). Ciara Bravo co-stars as his girlfriend turned wife, Emily, who Cherry also gets addicted to drugs.
Despite the talent in front of and behind the camera, Cherry is quite a mess, albeit quite an interesting and intriguing mess. The film is build up of about four different acts – it begins as a teen romance drama, and then turns turns into a war drama, a drug drama and finally, a heist crime drama. And, it’s fair to say the least interesting and most unnecessary part of the story is the war drama.
Many people will go into this film expecting to see a film about dealing with drug addiction, which is it for the most part, however, before you get to that, you have to plough through a lot of drama about seeing Holland fighting in the war. It is necessary for the story as it shows us why Cherry is suffering from PTSD, and eventually, why he must turns to drugs, but we don’t really need to see it.
It would possibly be better only hinted at and discussed, and if they really wanted to show us footage, it could possibly be seen through flashbacks. The drama is slightly interesting to watch from a superficial point of view, and it’s fun to see the Russo brothers reference classic war dramas, like Apocalypse Now. However, the action could be a little more exciting and better-directed, particularly as it comes from the mind of filmmakers who have crafted some of the best action films of the last decade.
The war drama is an unnecessary element to the film, that only adds an extra 40 minutes or so to an already bloated run-time (coming in at 2 hours and 30 minutes). And, it’s largely an uncharacteristic element of the film, as for the most part, it is poppy and gritty drug drama that feels akin to something like Trainspotting and The Wolf of Wall Street.
And, during the film, the Russos are trying their best to embody Danny Boyle or Martin Scorsese’s visual style – there are multiples fourth-wall breaks to the camera, segregating the film into different parts, poppy and kinetic editing, a bleak realism, and a very macabre dark sense of humour. Although the visual style is obviously well-crafted and sometimes thrilling to watch, it just feels very unnecessary and distracting to the overall film.
If you look at the visual style in Trainspotting, for example, that kind of visual style is done for a reason – it’s surreal and often kinetic aesthetic is done to take you into the mind of a drug addict. And, because the film is interested in being much more that just a drug drama, this visual style just feels a little odd and distracting.
The whole film feels very reminiscent of a vanity project. The Russos, after crafted the highest-grossing film of all time (however, it has since been knocked off that pedestal by Avatar), could of directed any project that they wanted to, with very little studio inference. However, at times, this is not always a good thing as it can lead to films becoming bloated and uneven, which definitely seems to have happened to Cherry.
Although, the film may be uneven, the performances are all pretty good. Bravo, in her first big leading role, is really good, as is an always good Jack Reynor. Holland, also shines in the lead role – a role that is miles away from his Spider-Man persona. In this film, we seeing him taking on a darker, more adult persona, however, still one that he can bring his comedic timing and youthful charisma to.
The worst problem with the film is that there really a good film in there somewhere. The heist drama can be very fun and thrilling, while the drug drama is often bleak, realistic and darkly funny. The craft behind the camera is great, while the performances are terrific – it just needs to be in a movie a bit better edited. The end result is quiet uneven, however, still worth watching, if only for Holland’s performance.