‘Cherry’ Review: A Very Different Tangled Web for Tom Holland

‘Cherry’ Review: A Very Different Tangled Web for Tom Holland

‘Cherry’ Review: A Very Different Tangled Web for Tom Holland

‘Cherry’ Review: A Very Different Tangled Web for Tom Holland

A couple of years back, when Martin Scorsese dared to say he didn’t care for superhero movies — “that’s not cinema,” he said — two successful directors in that field, the brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, took a swipe at the older filmmaker. “At the end of the day, what do we know?” Joe said in an interview. “We’re just two guys from Cleveland, Ohio, and ‘cinema’ is a New York word.”

Yet, from the evidence of their latest movie, “Cherry,” the Russos seem interested in making something akin to Scorsese cinema. A song by Van Morrison, a Scorsese favorite, plays over this movie’s opening credits, and other Morrison songs adorn its soundtrack. The protagonist is introduced as a young, alienated, fast-walking white man with a close-cropped haircut and a gun. Drug addiction figures in the action, and the action is often captured with involved camerawork. Hmm.

Adapted from a semi-autobiographical novel by Nico Walker, “Cherry” follows its title character (Tom Holland) from a collegiate romantic obsession to his time as a soldier in Iraq and a bank robber feeding the opioid monkey on his back. “I’m 23 years old, and I still don’t understand what people do,” Cherry says in voice-over early on.

Whether they’re comfortable owning up to it or not, the Russos are better moviemakers than their Marvel movies (the most recent of which was the gargantuan hit “Avengers: Endgame”) allow them to be. They demonstrate that here. Holland, also a veteran of the superhero mode of cinema (he’s Spider-Man these days) shows performing chops that web-slinging doesn’t often let him flex.

Being “two guys from Cleveland” works to the filmmakers’ advantage, as at least some of the home-front action is set and was shot in Cleveland Heights. The Russos understand the territory and shoot it knowingly, only rarely indulging in the Hollywood tendency to fetishize abandoned heartland American factories.

They do less well when Cherry enters basic training: The directors change the aspect ratio and, in essence, offer up a condensed remake of the first third of Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket.”

The Iraq sequences are more impressive. The sere, desolate chaos of military maneuvers is well conveyed, as is the confusion of Cherry’s character.

Eventually “Cherry” breaks free enough of its influences to present a credible, at times harrowing, American addiction tragedy. Ciara Bravo, as Cherry’s girlfriend, wife and eventual partner in junkie-dom, is at times the performer who has the strongest emotional hold on the viewer, and the most memorable find here.

Cherry
Rated R for language and violence. Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes. Watch on Apple TV+.


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