Cherry Bomb is a film which strives to channel the same sort of throw-back, grind-house exploitation thoroughly 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) Bomb registers as little more than an occasionally amusing distraction – which is due to the film possessing a look that is indicative of a lack of financial resources and an acceptable level of artistic competency both in front of and behind the camera.
For those who have been even mildly conscious to the world of cinema over the last fifty years the story of 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 through acts of bloody carnage perpetrated by said girl. Now, if you take this simple format and throw in a pinch of the unstoppable hitman trope (think Javier Bardem a la No Country) you pretty much have the essence of what you’ll be getting through a viewing of Cherry Bomb. However, as stated above, 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 grind-house genre riffing.
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 solely 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 belongs in this bizarre genre of film which espouses a world-view that true female empowerment can only obtained via the process of victimization, degradation and then subsequent violence. It would be interesting to see a film which comments on the cinematic trend of a woman experiencing violence in response to her sexual expression or her rebuff of more socially traditional gender and relationship roles (Cherry has a female partner in the film). However, if you aren’t interested in getting heady (which Cherry Bomb’s filmmakers clearly weren’t) when you are making a film and turn to your bro saying, “Dude! This is going to look so cool!” at least have the skills and resources to make it look, well, cool.