Cherry (3 stars)

Cherry

This ever-evolving crime drama from Marvel's Russo brothers acts as a superb platform for star Tom Holland

Following last year's gruesome The Devil All the Time, Tom Holland puts his Spidey suit to one side for another gritty adventure, which nevertheless reteams him with Marvel's main men, Anthony and Joe Russo (the directors of two Captain America films and the last two Avengers instalments). Ambitiously combining a love story, war film, crime flick and addiction drama, Cherry doesn't always live up to its promise, but it offers Holland a bumper showcase for his talents.

It's based on Nico Walker's semi-autobiographical novel, with a screenplay by Angela Russo-Otstot (the sister of Anthony and Joe, making this one even more of a family affair) and Jessica Goldberg. When we meet the eponymous hero (played by Holland), he's a 23-year-old bank robber and drug addict, but we're quickly taken back to Cherry's days as a sweet-natured student falling for a pretty peer (Ciara Bravo's Emily), before his rash decision to sign up for the army puts him on a terrible path.

The film is initially hard to get a handle on with its intrusive, occasionally gnomic narration, time period shifts and smothering stylings. However, Cherry's induction into the army does make an impression, the war zone scenes are suitably impactful and the Russos do well to not revel in the bombast of it all, instead communicating the trauma and inhumanity of war, and its ruinous aftermath. It's also quite effective at showing the spiralling misery and impossible to shake cycle of crime and addiction, yet there are some major missteps late in the game, including a cringeworthy conclusion and a rather alarming moustache.

If the execution can feel OTT, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (Drive, Da 5 Bloods) still manages to wow you on occasion. There's so little for the heavily side-lined supporting players to get their teeth into – most unforgivably Bravo, whose Emily has substantial screen-time, yet is never given anything resembling a personality – that it really is Holland's show, and he takes us convincingly through Cherry's gruelling journey. Although he has literally soared as Spider-Man, it's not a role that has particularly stretched this charismatic young actor; now we've seen what Holland is capable of, the sky truly is the limit.

Available to watch on Apple TV+ from Fri 12 Mar.

Cherry

  • 3 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 2h 21min
  • Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Written by: Angela Russo-Otstot, Jessica Goldberg
  • Cast: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Michael Rispoli, Jeff Wahlberg
  • UK release: 12 March 2021

In order to pay for his opioid addiction, an Army medic becomes a bank robber.