Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Cherry Bomb
You had your cherry popped
This should be gold.
Yes, that’s right, I’m wallowing in the grimy pit of modern grindhouse again, because I clearly haven’t learned my lesson from recent fiascoes such as Hobo with a Shotgun, Nude Nuns with Big Guns and so forth. Given my utterly atrocious track record picking films from this sad and benighted genre, you’d think I would have stopped. Except I keep seeing exceptional posters for them, such as the one above, and I instantly forget about the maxim “never judge a book by its cover”. In my defence, though, this is billed as a rip-roaring revenge tale about a stripper on the warpath, which does sound right up my alley.
Contains an enormous hitman with an inexplicable afro and spoilers below.
I was, admittedly, a touch worried when I sat down to watch this. The premise suggests that it’s unlikely that her revenge is spurred on by someone stealing her favourite dildo, so I was thinking that there would be a high chance that I’d have a nasty rape scene to contend with. Thankfully for my poor abused retinas this never actually materialises, which means that while Cherry Bomb is sure as hell aiming at exploitation, or as I’m calling the modern Grindhouse films from now on, fauxsploitation, it’s also surprisingly tame.
The titular (hur hur hur) Cherry (Julin Jean) is a stripper at Ian’s (Nick Manning) shady joint. One night a group of scumbags get a bit rough with her and brutally beat and rape her. Upon awakening in hospital, Cherry is horrified to discover that it’s all a big stitch up and the local corrupt cops have tampered with her rape kit and supplied alibis to all the scumbags involved. She is, needless to say, deeply unimpressed at this turn of events.
Her brother Brandon (John Gabriel Rodriquez) is also none too chuffed at the abuse his sister has taken, so sets off to retrieve some compensation to pay her hospital bills. One fuck up later and he’s offed a rapist and his girlfriend and half-inched $12,000. You’d think Cherry would be pleased, except she’s not at all grateful in the slightest (rude cow), and instead of paying the bills off uses the cash to purchase a veritable arsenal. The siblings are now committed to getting some kind of justice for Cherry by splattering everyone complicit in the assault all over the landscape.
Yay! Girl Power!
Or not as the case may be, because it turns out everyone is connected and a humongous black dude with an inexplicable afro wig called “The Bull” (the guy, not the hairpiece) is out to stop her. Cue blah, revenge, guns, nailgun, boredom, big showdown, the end.
Right. This film honks. I can kind of see what director Kyle Day is going for here- he wants a female revenge story without making the audience puke at the initial assault, but for the most part it just doesn’t work. The acting is OK, with Julin (aside from an inexplicable lack of nakedness, although the other strippers do get the goods out) patchy, Manning in his first non-porn role gloriously OTT and a solid turn from Rodriquez, but it all feels strangely lacking. There’s no intensity to the performances, particularly Julin (outside of one memorable scene) and as such there’s no passion in her revenge. Allen Hackley is good fun as The Bull, and is certainly large and in charge enough to carry the role, but he goes out like a bit of a bitch, and that is simply not acceptable. He is, however, light years ahead of the dickheads playing the rapists (who are simply, to a man awful) who I won’t shame by naming. They know who they are, anyway.
Leaving aside awful CGI on the gunshots and the explosives at the climax of the film, there’s some decent action here and a few laugh out loud scenes, notably Cherry confronting the guy that didn’t rape her but didn’t stop them (tastefully in front of his wife and young daughter), and the nail gun sequence (which fails because of the rotten performance of the human pincushion) but these are too few and far between.
I would also like a moratorium called on needless plot twists in films. They try to hide who the actual villain of the piece is, yet the whole thing is so astonishingly cack handed, and the character in question so obviously sleazy and evil that you’ll call it within seconds of seeing him. The problem, actually, is that a simple rape and revenge film such as this one doesn’t need plot twists; the simplicity should be the strength of the narrative, and by including a needless twist it diminishes the impact of the film.
I think I’m struggling here because this film is shite for a simple reason: there is an almost total lack of intensity to the action. I don’t know if this is the pacing (although I don’t think it is) but there’s no sense of urgency to proceedings and a huge amount of narrative conveniences that just start to become irritating after a while. It’s a hard failure to quantify, this one, as all the pieces are assembled to make a compelling, bloody, titty laden schlockfest that could have been this year’s Bitch Slap, but the whole just adds up to so much less than the sum of its parts. Look at it this way: hot women willing to get naked + Cheesy one liners + gunplay + hilarious hitman should equal solid gold, yet it just doesn’t.
Cherry Bomb plods along not being particularly offensive, but not exactly grabbing the viewer (or this viewer anyway), and it becomes, after a while, sort of boring. The big reveal as to who the villain is is cack-handed (and as mentioned hugely predictable anyway), the minor corpses in wait suck balls heavily and in all honesty it’s just boring. I started to speculate on why the film was failing while watching it (always the sign of a platinum stinker), and I’ve got a horrible feeling that it’s because the rape wasn’t graphic enough (or even seen). Yes, they do cut back to the aftermath of it a few times, but I’m wondering if we didn’t need a bit more punch to the early scenes. It doesn’t help that Cherry is lying in her hospital bed looking like she got double teamed by the Klitschkos one minute then all cute as pie at Brandon’s sucking on a lollipop with nary a mark on her the next. I suspect that had she been noticeably beaten up for a lot longer then the film wouldn’t have needed to show more of the assault.
I hated writing that paragraph. I’m normally dead against rape scenes in schlock films, because they’re almost always repugnant, but given the lack of intensity, and the lack of pulse to the film, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps a harder, ballsier exploitation film might have been in order. This is pure idle speculation, and given the utterly inept performances put in by the rapist clowns I would bet that they weren’t up to the acting required anyway.
Overall, Cherry Bomb is crap, but at least it isn’t repugnant crap and for that reason I could make it to the end with little effort. Julin is attractive when not trying to be attractive, Rodriquez is solid and the stabbing in the nightclub is hilariously contrived so there’s enough here to duck an Orangutan of Doom. Nevertheless, this feels like an enormous opportunity missed, and a true waste of some outstanding design work on the various posters and DVD covers. I’m not recommending this in a million years, and Cherry Bomb is, in fact, shite.
Next up I have a number of options, none of which are particularly appealing.