Review by Dan Skip Allen
Brothers Joe and Anthony Russo could have chosen to direct any film project after their huge successes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They chose to direct a film based on the best-selling book by Nico Walker about his life growing up in Cleveland and going off to fight in the Iraq war and what happened when he got back from the Middle East.
Niko Walker (Tom Holland) is a kid from Cleveland who is struggling with life. When he meets a young girl named Emily (Ciara Bravo), he starts feeling better. Eventually, he decides to go into the Army and ends up in the Middle East fighting a pointless war. He sees a lot of horrors over there and comes back and ends up with PTSD. This causes him and Emily to become drug addicts. Their whole life starts spiraling down around them.
The Russo Brothers chose to tell this story in chapters with title cards and all. It helps with the passing of time and the different phases of his and her life. They also use a different style of filmmaking to tell this story. It's more of a visceral style of storytelling. The camera work is shaded and shadowy. It has a faded look to it which mirrors the world that these characters live in. They are definitely on a downward turn that they may not come back from.
This story is an ugly one. A lot of people in the country have gotten caught up in the opioid crisis in our country and this is the typical result of what happens when people are addicted to drugs. They ruin their lives and those around them. Until either they get help or they die. It's a tragic tale that happens to thousands of Americans every day and year. It's a sad state of affairs what these people are going through.
Tom Holland is a young actor who has had quite a good stretch of success in his young career. Playing Spider-Man in the MCU has garnered him great praise from the film community and critics alike. The role of Niko Walker is quite a different turn for him, though. This character has multiple layers to him and facets of emotion. He goes through many different states. His life has taken a lot of twists and turns. This is a character any actor would want to play because of all layers he has in him. Holland just doesn't take him to the places he needed to go to be completely effective in getting the story of this character across.
The Russos and Holland try to do their best with this material. It's not an easy story to put on the screen. The decisions they take with the story, acting, and filmmaking styles should be applauded. They all just don't work at times. They just come across as desperate and inconsistent. Maybe a more seasoned actor could have done more with the character.
Cherry hits theaters on February 26 and Apple TV+ on March 12.