First of all, it’s hard to believe that Cherry is actually the new works of Anthony and Joe Russo. The same directing duo who gave us some of the most entertaining MCU movies over the recent years including Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016) as well as Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). The latter, of course, was notable for shattering box-office records, which famously took the movie just 11 days to reach US$2 billion worldwide. By the end of its theatrical run, Avengers: Endgame made US$2.797 billion, just enough to finally dethrone James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) to become the new worldwide box-office champion (even though at the time of writing, Avatar is set to take over the No. 1 spot again following China’s re-release).
Now, back to Cherry, which marks the Russos’ first directorial effort since Avengers: Endgame. Instead of continuing the same superhero-movie route, they choose to take a break and does something dramatic for a change. A crime drama about a PTSD-inflicted young army medic nicknamed Cherry (Tom Holland) who becomes addicted to opioids and ends up robbing banks.
Told in various chapters, we learn about Cherry’s life from his high-school era when he first met Emily (Ciara Bravo) and get together. As the movie progresses further, Cherry enlists himself in the army, where he is sent to boot camp and endures the hellish Full Metal Jacket-like torture. After graduation, he eventually gets his firsthand experience in war-torn Iraq and by the time he returns home as a decorated hero, his life has already spiralled out of control.
Tom Holland gives his all and certainly looks the part playing a high-strung protagonist on the verge of a complete breakdown. The Russos, in the meantime, know well how to play around with their visual bag of tricks as they experiment with different colour gradings, aspect ratios and camera placements. No doubt that Cherry is technically proficient.
And yet, the movie remains a huge, missed opportunity. Adapted from Nico Walker’s 2018 novel of the same name, the Russos try their best to cover everything here: the existential drama, the first-person narration style that emulates the work of Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas quickly comes to mind), the cause and effect of war and addiction (in this case, OxyContin). If that’s not enough, the movie also includes scenes where Cherry breaks the fourth wall.
But it’s all style over substance designed to keep things busy over the course of a little over 140 minutes long (and boy, it sure feels overlong). Try as they might, the Russos’ flashy filmmaking style can’t mask the fact that Cherry lacks emotional heft while the story feels too distanced for its own good. With the exception of Tom Holland, most of the characters are reduced to forgettable roles. Just about everything here is as hollow as it goes to the point that Cherry becomes a bloated mess of an epic proportion.
Other than Cherry being a colossal misfire, this is the second time in a row where I watched Tom Holland’s otherwise captivating performance got stuck in a terribly-misguided crime drama after last year’s The Devil All the Time.
Cherry is currently streaming on Apple TV+.