Cherry Crush Nicholas DiBella

Rich and smart, with an assured future and a profitable sideline taking nude glamour shots of female classmates at his old money prep school, Jordan (Jonathan Tucker) is bullet proof, and knows it. But wait. Thanks largely to Jordan’s enervated voiceover, laden with Holden Caulfield-esque palaver about identities and roles and façades, it’s quickly apparent that Cherry Crush plans to take us into film noir territory, so that, as any fool knows, Jordan shouldn’t be buying the green bananas. And sure enough, before you can say, "a little more thigh, please, Buffy,” Jordan gets himself cashiered from Ye Olde Prep and consigned to the local public school, where he wastes no time fixating on bad girl Shay as both photographic subject and lust object. Once the noir gears finally engage — the preparatory work is both slow and obvious — fundamental problems begin to show through the glossy surface: Shay (Nikki Reed, best known as the co-writer of alarmist sexposé Thirteen) is too self-possessed and well-turned-out to make a credible low-life, and too callow a femme to seem truly fatale. Jordan’s voiceover, shooting for noir deadpan, comes off instead as self-involved and (particularly from the mouth of an 18-year-old) dorkily pretentious. Jordan himself isn’t flawed, weak or venal, as the genre usually requires, but genuinely well intentioned, and a little unlucky. And ever-skeevy Frank Whaley is badly miscast as Shay’s putative sugar daddy and eventual blackmail target. Not that it’s necessarily any great sin to stray from noir conventions, of course, but since every second sentence in the "behind the scenes” featurette brims with pride of authorship in the "new” concept of "teen noir” — apparently no one has seen the vastly superior Brick — it’s not entirely unfair to measure them with their own yardstick. Cherry Crush is not without its surprises, and Michael O’Keefe, in particular, deserves praise for the valuable utility work he contributes as a phlegmatic cop who is surely more (and also possibly less) than he seems. Still, there is dissatisfaction when neither redemption nor comeuppance is meted out in appropriate proportions. In a way that seems a little cowardly, the villain(s) aren’t sufficiently scummy, nor the mark sufficiently sappy or obtuse, to make the tension really bite. The DVD includes a pointlessly thorough "making of” featurette that conveys nothing of value except an ineffable sadness that comes from observing how much good faith and enthusiastic work goes into even mediocre product. Much of which, as with this effort, never even receives a theatrical release. (First Look)