Cherry Bomb is a film which strives to channel the sort of throw-back, grindhouse exploitation reveled in by the likes of Tarantino, Rodriguez, Roth and every other dork who ever raided his or her local video store for forgotten “treasures” from the 1970′s. However, while these cinephiles were able to imbue their films with a palpable sense of nostalgic worth (due to a mastery over the fundamentals of movie-making) Cherry Bomb registers as little more than an occasionally amusing distraction. The film’s low production values, which imbue it with a weird sort of charm, eventually damn it completely as a piece of forgettable garbage.
For those who have been even mildly conscious to the world of cinema over the last fifty years the story of Cherry Bomb contains very little that you haven’t seen before. The basic premise is rather mundane and recycled: girl is sexually expressive, girl gets sexually assaulted, girl goes on a vengeful tear where her assailants learn the error of their ways. Now, if you take this simple format and throw in a pinch of the unstoppable hitman trope (think Javier Bardem from No Country for Old Men) you pretty much have the essence of what you’ll be getting in Cherry Bomb. However, the main problem with Bomb is not that we’ve seen all of this before (and we have) it’s that the filmmakers involved did not possess either the skills necessary, or the funds required to transition this campy exercise away from amateurish goofiness to a more professional (and enjoyable) level of grindhouse exploitation.
The titular Cherry is played by a woman listed on imdb.com as simply “Julin”, and while she is somewhat successful in pulling off the slinky physicality and hyper-sexualized stage persona of a stripper, her ability to handle other facets of Cherry (such as Cherry as a traumatized rape victim) ranges from laughable to egregiously hammy. Far worse is the performance of adult film star Nick Manning as Cherry’s strip club manager Ian Benedict. His performance is so shockingly wooden, so listless in presentation and so devoid of any real definable skill that it becomes immediately apparent that Manning should have continued to focus on utilizing his “physical” attributes. These are what helped produce such classic titles as Worship My School-girl Ass, Big Boob Blondes and my personal favorite Barely Legal 110 – which I think is far superior to Barely Legal 109.
Still, as terrible as the talent is in front of the camera the blame for this cinematic failure should be placed squarely on the shoulders of director Kyle Day and especially writer Garrett Hargrove – whose script can’t give any of these characters coherence or imbue their actions with any sort of credibility (even with the film possessing a hyper-realistic tone). One striking example of this is the post-rape character arc of Cherry, where she transitions from emotionally crippled sexual assault survivor to avenging angel in seemingly the blink of an eye.
Cherry Bomb espouses a world-view where female empowerment can only obtained via the process of victimization, degradation and then subsequent violence. It would be interesting to see a film which actually meditates on what any of this stuff really means. However, Cherry Bomb is clearly not interested in this, and is clearly fixated on simply aping the accomplished exploitation seen in Kill Bill or Grindhouse. It’s a trite but fair aspiration. Still, if this is your sole goal do the audience a favor and acquire the requisite resources.