By Don Simpson | July 12, 2012
Director: Kyle Day
Writers: Garrett Hargrove, Kyle Day
Starring: Julin Jean, Nick Manning, John Rodriguez, Allen Hackley, Jeremy James Douglas Norton, Denise Williamson, Tony Bottorff, Dave Buckman, LeMarc Johnson, Alan Martin, D.J. Morrison, Conor Nobles, Salvador Perez
I first became aware of Cherry Bomb during SXSW 2010 when writer-producer Garrett Hargrove asked our editor-in-chief Dave Campbell to be an extra in the film. Sure enough, Dave makes a couple of fleeting appearances early in the film — as far as I know, this is Dave’s Blu-ray debut and his first time to share the screen with a room full of [half-]naked ladies. I would like to think that Dave’s involvement in Cherry Bomb has no influence on my opinions of the film, but I will leave that up for you to decide…
So, I guess you are probably wondering why Dave shares the screen with a room full of [half-]naked ladies, huh? Well, the titular Cherry (Julin Jean) is an exotic dancer at the Pussy Hut. (And, yes, Dave’s scene takes place inside the Pussy Hut.) Late one night, Cherry enters a private room to dance for a few of the club’s wealthiest clients; but then the guys pay the bouncer to leave the room, in order to take full advantage of Cherry.
Next thing Cherry knows, she is waking up in a hospital, horribly bruised. Because of her assailants’ influence with the local law enforcement, they are able to avoid arrest. Once Cherry discovers that her aggressors will not be punished, she vows to kill them off one by one. Cherry’s brother Brandon (John Rodriguez) joins her cause, primarily to watch over her. Everything seems to be going as planned until a mysterious hit man named Bull (Allen Hackley) enters the picture.
Believe it or not, I am not usually a fan of revenge thrillers. I hate the concept of vigilante justice, the idea of someone punishing others in order to serve their own personal notion of right and wrong — even though sometimes the guilt is more cut and dry, specifically when we witness the catalytic event firsthand. Rape revenge thrillers are even more difficult for me to come to terms with, mainly because the filmmakers are typically utilizing extreme violence against women in order to win our acceptance for the subsequent revenge.
Writer-director Kyle Day uses certain narrative aspects of rape revenge thrillers as a guideline, but Cherry Bomb breaks away from the less politically correct tropes. First of all, even though Cherry is a stripper, we never see her naked (much to some critics’ and fanboys’ dismay). Additionally, the brutality against Cherry is strongly implied but never shown. (We do, however, see much of Cherry’s violence towards the men.) There is never any doubt about what happened to Cherry, it is just that Day sees no reason to fetishize the violence.
Most importantly, Day allows Cherry to mature and grow as a character as the film progresses. In fact, it is really tough to pin Cherry down, especially because of her character’s arc. Cherry begins the film as a carefree and happy 20-something. After the attack, she is lost and confused. She is a little goofy and aloof, but she is also incredibly strong-willed and determined. The first couple of kills are haphazard and unfocused, but Cherry begins to take her task more seriously as she progresses closer to her goal. Then Bull really forces Cherry to pull her shit together quickly. Before Bull appears, there seems to be no risk involved for Cherry; suddenly she is fighting a seemingly unconquerable adversary. Julin Jean’s performance as Cherry is what really won me over. She does not opt for being a tough chick or a ditsy slut, like most heroines of [s]exploitation and Grindhouse flicks. Sure, Jean is incredibly sexy, but she never allows herself to be objectified. Cherry is completely natural and human, totally unlike any other [s]exploitation flick stripper I have ever watched.
Cherry Bomb‘s other merit is its extremely high production value. M. Andrew Barrera’s cinematography is quite respectful of the [s]exploitation and Grindhouse genres, while never looking overtly grainy or low-quality. In fact, the lensing is quite beautiful — especially the film’s high contrast, over-saturated colorscape. Of course Cherry Bomb is far from a cinematic masterpiece, but that is the advantage of making [s]exploitation and Grindhouse flicks. No one is going to hold you to the gold standard. There is an assumed allowance for stilted and/or clumsy performances here and there, and a few production flaws are forgivable as well. Personally, I think Day’s novel approach to the genre, Jean’s nuanced performance, and the stunning cinematography definitely make Cherry Bomb one of the better modern [s]exploitation flicks. Speaking of which, Well Go USA Entertainment has just released the Austin-filmed Cherry Bomb on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.