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‘Cherry’ is a well-made disappointment

By Mason Kupiainen After ruling the box office with Avengers: Endgame, the Russo Brothers moved away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to take on smaller, more niche projects. While they produced 21 Bridges and wrote the screenplay for Extraction, Cherry is their first directorial project since their string of Marvel films.  Cherry follows the corruption of Nico Walker (Tom Holland), a war medic turned drug addict, to cope with his PTSD. While his relationship with his wife falls apart, they both turn to drugs to cope with their pain, leading them down a dark path. This path takes Walker into robbing banks to pay off the debt he’s gained while fueling his and his wife’s drug addiction. 

Rough first half

Image from Variety
Each of the Marvel entities the Russo’s directed, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, showed off their unique approach to action and visualization. All four of the films were beautifully shot and well-directed, and that skill translates over into Cherry. However, it felt as if the Russo’s were desperately trying to show off their artistry skills while trying to shed the innocence the Disney brand brought them. Although the book is dripping in dread, the film felt as if they made every attempt to expose the dark and grim nature more to shock the audience. The film is a dark, dread-fueled ride that shows the hopelessness of Walker’s life, but it does so in a way that’s unappealing to watch. Along with this, Holland’s performance is similar to the Russo’s, since he’s become synonymous with playing Spider-Man, it felt as if he, too, was making every move to present himself as a darker and more dramatic actor. His last performance in The Devil All the Time took this similar approach, but he was more subtle with his performance and could disappear into the role. In Cherry,  he completely subjects himself to the cruelness of Walker’s character and doesn’t give a believable performance in the first half of the film. When the movie moves past the college and military years of his life around the halfway mark, Holland’s performance surprisingly improves. He was able to pull off the PTSD suffering war vet while executing the drug addict as well. Overall, he still felt heavily miscast in the role as he doesn’t present himself as an edgy and hardened criminal. He lacks shedding his youthful charm he’s known to have, leaving him being another distracting element. 

Artistry gone wrong

Image from IGN
In terms of consistency, the film is a complete mess. As mentioned before, it felt as if the Russo’s were trying to demonstrate their skills in this film. Without the restraints of Disney and Marvel Studio’s president Kevin Fiege, it felt as if they were given complete creative control, which turned out to be an issue. One of the major issues is the use of fourth-wall breaking. A few times throughout the film, Holland will turn to the camera to give a monologue or give a quick comment to the audience, but it’s used so sparingly that whenever it happens, it feels strange. The film will also change aspect ratio and color grading, adding to the film’s odd creative choices. There are also these oddball moments that felt like bizarre choices for this type of film. For example, there’s a moment in the film during the training sequences where the doctor is examining him, and we get a shot from inside Holland's butt as the doctor does his examination. Decisions like these made for uncomfortable and weird moments that didn’t fit in line with the film’s tone. Most of these creative decisions are well presented, but they’re executed so oddly that it becomes distracting throughout the entire film.  Along with the odd creative choices, there are many elements in the film that made it feel like the filmmakers were trying to adapt elements of the book that don’t work for the film. For example, the book will pause to explain the background of a character to set up certain elements. With many characters in the film, they will be introduced but don’t hold much value in the context of the film. They are given quick cuts to give some useless information on those characters and end up being throwable moments. With the film being about two and a half hours, it would have helped trim down the bloated run-time and make the film more tightly packed. Similarly to how a book will explain information to the audience, the movie relies on voice-over way too much. This method of presenting information could have been the Russo’s trying to be more creative and artsy with their work, but it simply came off as a lazy approach to present information without showing it. Most of these elements could be forgiven if the story and script were exceptional, yet the film lacks in this region as well. The film often cuts away and moves quickly past interesting moments of his life, and lingers too much in the duller aspects. Since the movie moves past certain elements too quickly, it will gloss over characters that become important later on, yet when the film asks you to care about these moments, they did a lazy job setting it up so that it falls apart. The film is juggling too many elements and jumping around so that you cannot grab hold of anything, leading to the film feeling distant and lifeless.
Sources: Box Office Mojo, IMDB (21 Bridges), IMDB (Extraction), IMDB (Cherry) Images: Variety, IGN Featured Image: YouTube