Of all of the post-Avengers: Endgame movies you’d expect directors/brothers Anthony and Joe Russo to make, one that deals in drug addiction, war, and bank robbery would probably rank toward the bottom. Yet here they are, with Spider-Man star Tom Holland leading the way, with Cherry, a profane, graphic, and ultimately pointless exercise.
Holland’s character has no name – Cherry is (possibly) a nickname for his first wartime experience, but that doesn’t happen until well into the film. We meet him in college, where he ever-so-sweetly introduces the audience to Emily (Ciara Bravo), the woman who’ll become the love of his life, by saying how much he wants to f--- her.
The two proceed to engage in an on-again, off-again type of relationship that proves destructive for them both. One breakup leads the man not called Cherry to enlist in the Army, and the film follows him through basic training, an overseas tour in an unnamed country, and back home again, where PTSD from the war drives him down an opioid rabbit hole and eventually to robbing banks to support the habit.
That’s a lot of story for one film to support, and the Russo brothers show that they’re not up to the task. The film, adapted by their sister, Angela Russo-Otstot, and Jessica Goldberg from the novel by Nico Walker, is a mishmash of tones that never gel. Much of the film plays like a wacky dark comedy, something that’s completely at odds with the depravity that populates the latter half of the film.
It would seem that Fight Club, which also had anti-corporate overtones and an unnamed lead character narrating most of the story, was an inspiration for the film, but the filmmakers are nowhere near as successful in getting their messages across. The near-constant voiceover by Holland gets old almost right away, and naming different banks things like Credit None, Shitty Bank, and Capitalist One isn’t as clever as they seem to think it is.
The varying tones make the film come off like an amateur’s idea of what a war/drug/crime movie is supposed to be. It’d be one thing if the film actually had something to say, but it’s just empty storytelling that copies the structure of other better films, with no gravitas to it at all. And at 140 minutes, it’s obvious the Russos thought almost every bit of their navel-gazing was important.
Holland is a delight as Spider-Man, but he’s out of his depth in this role. Instead of coming off as authentic, most of the time it feels like he’s trying to come to terms with the person he’s being asked to play instead of just playing him. You can almost see the acting strings both he and Bravo are trying to pull in some of their scenes together, reaching for a level that neither can yet achieve.
Virtually nothing about Cherry works, from the jumbled tones to overuse of voiceover to the poor storytelling to the miscast actors. Telling one of the four stories the film contains might have worked, but going for the gusto made all of them fall flat.
Cherry is playing in select theaters and is streaming exclusively on Apple TV+.