Hello, daddy. Hello, mom. Judge Patrick Bromley is your ch-ch-cherry bomb.
Don't light her fuse.
As a fan of exploitation movies, I've enjoyed the resurgence that the genre has experienced in the last ten years thanks to filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth bringing them loads of attention and a home video market that has made hundreds of titles readily available that otherwise might have been forgotten and lost to history. Of course, the flipside of this is that there are filmmakers nowadays who deliberately set out to make exploitation movies without really understanding what makes them special. They're just hollow imitations.
One such imitation is Cherry Bomb, director Kyle Day's 2011 rape revenge film starring Julin Jean (Puncture) as the titular stripper who is attacked after work one night, then devotes her life to taking out the guys responsible when she's unable to get justice from the corrupt cops assigned to the case. If that sounds more like a premise than a plot, that's because it is. That's OK. Better movies have been made from worse set ups. But Cherry Bomb is too happy to coast on the idea of what it is rather than what it's about—it's an ironic air quote of a movie, rubbing our noses in the deliberate trashiness of it all (last year's Hobo with a Shotgun was guilty of the same thing, but overcame that obstacle more easily because it was a better made movie). Here's a note to filmmakers: if you intentionally set out to make a cult movie, the result will almost always be a hollow and transparent exercise in style over substance. Unless your movie is The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Fifth Dimension, because that movie is awesome.
A good deal is made both by the filmmakers and by the film's advertising that Cherry Bomb is designed as an homage to the action films of the '80s, but, aside from being set in '84 (for no other reason than to exploit this alleged inspiration), there's nothing about the movie that feels of that decade. '80s action has such a specific feel and aesthetic, and there's nothing in this movie that approaches those things. Yes, there is an attempt to approximate the violence and sleaze of the kind of stuff that Cannon used to put out, but even those moments are too steeped in self-awareness to achieve any kind of kick. There's nothing that the movie takes seriously, and that's a large part of its downfall. Plenty of rape revenge movies have been sleazy and amateurish and simplistic, but the ones that work—even the ugly ones—take something seriously, whether it's the anger or the bloodlust or the overall griminess of it all. Cherry Bomb just wants to play make believe, going through the motions and hitting some of the beats without bothering to feel anything at all. It's the difference between sincerity and irony. Cherry Bomb is too busy with the latter to ever approach the former.
Well Go USA's Blu-ray release of Cherry Bomb is nearly as problematic as the movie itself. The 2.35:1 widescreen, 1080p image lacks the polish and detail we've come to expect from an HD transfer, with waxy skin tones and incredibly noisy, inconsistent black levels. Much of this can probably be attributed to the movie's low budget roots and DV photography (it was shot on a Canon still camera, and, as such, is pretty visually impressive), but that doesn't detract from the fact that the movie just doesn't look all that good on Blu-ray. The lossless 5.1 audio track is a little better, but only a little; dialogue can be difficult to make out at times (there are no subtitles to pick up the slack) and the movie's action beats haven't been separated well. It's just a bunch of noise coming out of the speakers. It's also somewhat telling that the audio track that's included is considerably louder than the movie audio.
Speaking of the commentary, it kicks off the disc's bonus section. On it, director Kyle Day is joined by screenwriter Garrett Hargrove, editor David James Ward and composer Jason Latimer for a discussion of the movie's '80s action inspirations, the challenges of indie filmmaking on a low budget and the role of Kickstarter in securing some of the financing. Aspiring genre filmmakers may want to listen to pick up some tips, but everyone else can pretty much skip it. Also included are some deleted scenes, an outtake reel and an alternate ending, which is basically the exact same ending with a few additional lines of dialogue.
Life is way too short for movies like Cherry Bomb. Director Kyle Day shows some promise as a filmmaker, but he hasn't found a story worth telling. There are dozens of other better, more honest versions of the same movie, told without ironic air quotes around them. And just putting air quotes around your "badness" does not make you any less bad.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go USA
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