Thursday, March 11, 2021

War-time trauma and drug addicition

      In Cherry, the Russo brothers (Anthony and Joseph) make a major  departure from their last movie, Avengers: Endgame. You won't find any superheroes in Cherry, a hard-core adaptation of an autobiographical novel by Nico Walker.
   Spanning the distance from the Iraq War to the inside of an Ohio penitentiary, Cherry tells a story of war-time trauma, post-traumatic stress, drug abuse and desperation.
  Tom Holland plays "Cherry," a former soldier who opens the movie with an account of the bank robberies he eventually commits to feed his massive drug habit. 
  Lame attempts at sardonic humor disrupt the movie’s reality. The banks we see are named "Capitalist One" and "Shitty Bank,” not the last time the Russos will attempt such snarky commentary.
   Best known to moviegoers for playing Spider-Man, Holland has the kind of gee-whiz innocence that lends itself to the character’s steady degradation. 
    Once home, Cherry reunites with Emily, his girlfriend played by Ciara Bravo. He's home, safe and with the one he loves. 
   Things should be great, right?
   Of course not.  Safe to assume that the movie's vividly presented combat sequences are replaying in Cherry's head throughout the movie. As a medic, he saw the worst of Iraq’s carnage but survived his combat experiences by learning how to shield himself from emotion. 
   Eventually, the movie settles into another addiction story as Cherry and his newly-addicted girlfriend stumble through AddictWorld with the Russos serving up more of the movie's seven chapters.
  An early chapter on Cherry’s basic training sets the tone as it attempts to capture the sadism, regimentation, and mind-snapping absurdity of the experience.
   The Russos squeeze a ton of story into the movie, telling us about the uneasy start of Cherry's courtship with Emily, how he discovers OxyContin, and the way Cherry and Emily abandon Oxy for heroin. 
   One of the dealers who supply them (Jack Reynor) goes by the name Pills & Coke. Daniel R. Hill plays a drug biggie to whom Cherry becomes indebted, never a good idea.
   The Russos sometimes succeed in delivering a visceral butt-kicker of a movie, but in its overall arc, Cherry feels an exclamation point on a tale that's been told before. 
    The Russos know how to speak the language of stylized grit and the problems of emotionally damaged veterans remain alarmingly real,  but Cherry can't entirely shake familiarity: One more journey down addiction road.

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