Crime thriller Cherry comes with big mainstream expectations, with it being directed by Joe and Anthony Russo and starring friendly neighborhood heartthrob Tom Holland. However, those expectations are quickly subverted, and for the better.
Clearly reveling in their freedom from the gentrified demands of blockbuster cinema, the Russos have crafted a patiently paced, expletive-filled, artfully gritty, and frequently shocking drama. Its central character is promising high-school student Cherry (Holland), who signs up for the US Army after he is temporarily dumped by his sweetheart Emily (Ciara Bravo).
Returning from a harrowing stint in Afghanistan and suffering from PTSD, he falls victim to a spiraling drug addiction (needle-phobes beware), and the subsequent debt sees him robbing banks to survive.
As Cherry, a near-unrecognizable Holland gives the boldest and most compelling performance of his young career, ranging from fear, desperation, and violence to childlike hope and tenderness. Similarly, Bravo is a revelation as Emily, who travels the spectrum from baby-faced innocence to the depths of decrepit despair.
Thankfully, the Russos imbue the often grim proceedings with the right amounts of light and levity to keep you gripped. Meanwhile, the subversive humor peppered throughout lends an anarchic energy that entertains as well as it moves.