Review: Cheap Thrills

Shockingly good - but I'd rather not say more


One of the great advantages of being a film critic is that you get to see movies before they have been discussed, analysed, mauled and often buried by the experts (aka the other critics). The joy of having first dibs means few preconceived ideas and, on rare occasions, one might even be clueless about the content. That was the case when I settled down to watch E L Katz's movie.

I was not only shocked by what takes place, but immensely entertained.

For you to enjoy the identical viewing experience, I'd have to keep you in the dark about Cheap Thrills, which is handy once you're in the cinema, but unlikely to make you buy a ticket. So here goes.

Failed writer/car mechanic Craig (Pat Healy) starts his day to the sound of a crying baby, his wife pushing him to ask for a raise and an eviction notice posted on his front door for non-payment of rent.

Things do not improve for Craig as he is then fired and goes to a bar to drown his sorrows. There he meets an old friend Vince (Ethan Embry) who is upbeat but financially no better off. The guys then meet party-loving couple Colin (David Koechner) and sexy blonde Violet (Sara Paxton), who appear to have limitless cash and are not afraid to spend it.

The problem is the way they like to spend it and that is by issuing a series of challenges to Craig and Vince that start out simply - the first is to down a shot of tequila - but quickly progress to more edgy dares such as punching a bouncer and spanking a stripper.

Once you know the premise it's not difficult to work out where the film is going for these desperate, down-on-their-luck individuals. But it is the way the scenario is handled by first-time director Katz, a former journalist who has his excellent cast play the blackest comedy completely straight.

Gory and potentially distressing for pet lovers (I won't say more), the story works as an allegory for a society in which rich people manipulate the poor.

But it could just as easily be a format for a TV reality show in the not too distant future. Never say never. Just hope I haven't revealed too much.

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