Coming off of the massive success of their run with Marvel, directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo likely had the cinematic world as their oyster. When you make Avengers: Endgame, that happens. So, how did the Russos opt to utilize their cache? They went and made Cherry, a flashy and kinetic crime drama. In some ways, this seems like a film that would have been made 25 years ago or so. That could have been a hindrance, as we saw recently with a work like The Little Things. However, here we have a movie that succeeds wildly due to the Russos’ creativity, as well as a hell of a good central performance.
Cherry has style to spare, and that helps to set it apart. Alongside the artistic success behind the camera, there’s also a wonderful turn at the core of it all from Tom Holland. Obviously, the filmmaking brothers are familiar with Holland from Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and the aforementioned Avengers: Endgame, but this is something new from him. More later, but it’s some of the finest work of his career. Between his turn and the bursts of visual creativity, this is a consistently engaging flick.
Cherry (Holland) is a drifter. Not in the sense of being homeless, but in terms of how he kind of floats through life. College isn’t for him, so he drops out, though not before meeting Emily (Ciara Bravo), with whom he immediately falls in love with. They eventually begin a budding romance, but that’s thrown for a loop when, almost on a whim, he enlists in the military. Trained as an Army Medic, Cherry is sent overseas and sees the hell of war. It affects him deeply, both while in the Middle East, as well as once he finishes his tour.
Back home, Cherry struggles with civilian life, which leads to an opioid addiction. Before long, Emily is hooked as well, creating a relationship far different from the one they originally envisioned. A problematic experience with a dealer (Jack Reynor) only causes more issues for the couple. As the need for a hit gets deeper and more all-consuming, he begins robbing banks for cash. It’s initially surprisingly easy, but the further along he goes with it, the more danger he puts himself in. The end result is, frankly, rather inevitable.
Tom Holland is terrific in the central role, bringing energy and intensity to the title part. He’s in nearly every scene and is utterly captivating. Without question, working with the Brothers behind the camera seems to bring out the best in Holland. It’s a world away from Peter Parker, but equally compelling. Ciara Bravo is a revelation too, presenting the heart and soul of the film. Together, they’re a wonderful couple. Supporting players don’t fare as well, with Michael Gandolfini, Forrest Goodluck, Michael Rispoli, and Jeff Wahlberg among those joining the aforementioned Jack Reynor, but Bravo and especially Holland are the focus.
The Russo Brothers bring a ton of energy to the material. A lot of it has to do with the visuals, which means credit also goes to cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. They employ all manner of tricks, as well as some incredibly clever choices. One such example is how they present names in the way someone who can’t recall specifics would remember them. So, you get Sgt. Whatshisname (I’m paraphrasing), and it’s phenomenally original. The screenplay by Jessica Goldberg and Angela Russo-Otstot, adapting Nico Walker‘s novel, is rock solid, in an old-fashioned way. The bones here are classic, while the execution is decidedly modern. Considering the somewhat bloated running time, we need this kind of filmmaking to make Cherry work. Luckily, they’re firing on all cylinders, so the movie soars.
Cherry has proven divisive, but I don’t really see why. Tom Holland is great, the Russo Brothers add style to an old story, and it’s all very well done. If you’re a fan of Holland and/or the Russos, you’re likely to be engaged by what’s on display here. The flick is hyper-stylish, but does so to illuminate the modern feel to an old story. In doing so, this is likely to be one of the more underrated titles of 2021.