I still vividly remember seeing Avengers: Endgame in theatres on opening night. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo had culminated nearly eleven years of storytelling and characters into a single three-hour long epic, surpassing James Cameron’s Avatar as the highest grossing film of all time, and establishing themselves as two of the world’s most successful filmmakers in the process. So, what was next for the Russo brothers? After Endgame, it seemed as though the two directors were limitless, and had the means to do practically anything they wanted. Their follow-up would be the upcoming film Cherry, which stars Tom Holland, and arrives on Apple TV March 12th. I got the chance to watch it early, and while I don’t think it’s fair to hold it to the same standards as Endgame, does it live up to what we’ve come to expect from the Russo brothers? For some, maybe. But for me, the short answer is a resounding no.
Cherry, based on the novel of the same name, takes place primarily between the years of 2002 and 2007, and follows a young Ohio man (Holland), who enlists in the Iraq war. After returning home with PTSD, his life is consumed by drugs and poor decisions that eventually lead to bank robbing.
Before I get into the film itself, I first have to give praise where praise is due. Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo, who plays the character of Emily, give two of my favorite performances of the year thus far. There wasn’t a single scene where I found myself bored of watching them. Even when the script lacked, they were always there to instantly recapture my attention. Holland previously starred in Netflix’s The Devil All the Time, which served as a chance for Holland to showcase his talents as an actor outside of Disney and the MCU. Unfortunately, the film itself was overly long and didn’t give any of its huge slew of actors much to do. Holland doesn’t shine until the last thirty minutes, but by that point, I was too exhausted from boredom to really care. That isn’t the case here. Cherry rests completely on Holland’s performance, and he doesn’t disappoint. I also tend to gravitate towards the “antihero” characters; characters that aren’t inherently good or bad, just fucked up, and trying to find their place in the world.
The problem with Cherry is that it tries to balance too many things at once, and doesn’t always do so gracefully. Sitting at a runtime of two and a half hours, Cherry tackles war, addiction and bank robbing, all the while building up a romance between its two central characters, and attempting to be a commentary on capitalism, imperialism, and the opioid crisis in America. There’s A LOT going on needless to say, which is why I can’t help but think that Cherry would have made a far more incredible limited series. We could have seen the different stages of Cherry’s life over the course of several episodes, instead of cramming everything into one movie. More importantly, we could have seen a much more natural evolution of the characters, rather than have them change so drastically between scenes.
The thing is, I know the Russo brothers are talented directors. Marvel fan or not, we’ve all seen their magic at work. But when the script isn’t the strongest, and the screen isn’t alight with CGI and spectacle, a bit more of their flaws slip through. While I do have my own gripe with this film, as I’m sure others will as well, I did think that Cherry was a gritty and enjoyable watch thanks to some flashy directing and incredible performances from Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo.