21st Mar2014

‘Cheap Thrills’ Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner, Amanda Fuller | Written by David Chirchirillo, Trent Haaga | Directed by E.L. Katz

Cheap-Thrills-cast

Unemployed and down on his luck, Craig finds himself drowning his sorrows in an attempt to forget the mounting debts threatening to tear his family apart. When a chance meeting with an old friend  leads to on drink after another; the pair find themselves drawn into an innocent game of dare by a thrill seeking couple with money to burn. Violet and Colin. As the night progresses both Vince and Craig become snared in a web of greed, as the game escalates into a something far more sinister. When the money is on the table how far will two friends go to ensure their future?

Place your bets, its time to play a game of Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills, from director EL Katz, which for a debut feature felt something like a tour de force. It portrays a financially down on his luck schmo (Pat Healy) who runs into an old friend (Etham Embry) whilst drowning his sorrows in a bar. They are accosted by a stupidly wealthy couple (Sara Paxton and David Koechner) who are looking for a good time. Koechner eggs the pair into drinking with them, offering cash to whoever downs shots the quickest. Seeing this as a way to support his young family for a little while, Healy’s character reluctantly joins in the game with Embry’s more enthusiastically taking part. This escalates into a series of dares for money that quickly turn to weird and eventually sinister.

Though I liked it a lot, Cheap Thrills is a challenging film; often I was seeing things I really wasn’t happy with and it demands a fair amount of suspension of disbelief. The tone I felt was a bit inconsistent – it’s hard to mix moral quandaries and thought experiments with humour, no matter how black. The characters occasionally felt a little more cypher-like than human beings with lives and backstories but this wasn’t too often.

I was also a little concerned about the ending as I’m not sure some characters really have to deal with the consequences of their actions, which is a bit of a cheat. However, this over-analysis of the film’s flaws is in the face of what is a very well made picture. Its strengths were in its grim watchability and its cutting social satire – as an allegory of how the rich take advantage of the working classes (at times quite literally screwing them over…) it works devastatingly well.

Cheap Thrills is a compelling and emotionally draining watch. The film is released in the UK on May 2nd.

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