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


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.


Comments are closed.