Film Review “Cheap Thrills”

cheap-thrills-poster-2013-pat-healyStarring: Pat Healy, Sara Paxton and David Koechner
Directed By: E.L. Katz
Rated: R
Running Time: 85 minutes
Drafthouse Films

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I don’t know about you, but the most I’ve spent on a bottle of liquor is $35 and that was on sale. Imagine spending $300 for a bottle of tequila and silencing the waitress’ doubts that you can afford it by flipping out five Benjamins with a quick flip from your pocket (tip included). That’s exactly the kind of money Colin (Koechner) has to spend and that’s barely a drop in the bucket to his unforeseen amounts of wealth.

Our story isn’t about Colin, it’s about Craig (Healy). Despite being in a happy marriage, Craig is quickly and quietly down on his luck. As soon as he steps outside his apartment, he finds an eviction notice on his door. Even as he arrives to his job as a grease monkey, his boss calmly tells him that the company is downsizing and his name was on the chopping block. Instead of going home and telling his wife that he’s now unemployed and they will soon be out on the street, he decides a night at the bar with his friend Vince (Ethan Embry) would be better. That’s when they meet Colin and his wife Violet (Paxton). They’re celebrating her birthday by making $50 bets and soon want to include them in on the fun.

What kind of fun? Colin tells Craig and Vince that the first one to get the depressed looking female at the bar to slap them across the face, gets $200. Vince is game, but Craig is not. On to a strip club where one of them can now go slap a stripper’s rear end for a couple hundred. Vince is game, but Craig is still not. When they’re chased out, Craig is the one who is picked up by the scruff of his shirt by a bouncer and asked if he’s the one who touched the stripper. Colin in the heat of the moment says, “I’ll give you $500 if you hit him first.” After a night of watching a total stranger shell out money like a deranged Secret Santa and seeing his buddy cheerfully take every bet and make his wallet fatter, Colin gives in. He’s not the strongest looking guy so his meager punch is quickly responded with one knockout blow from our beefcake security guard.

As the night progresses, so does the severity and corrupt nature of the bets, but as the money stakes progress, Colin and Vince can’t help but become competitive. As Craig points out in the movie, we’ve already seen hundreds, if not thousands compete in degrading reality TV competitions, that sometimes involve the consumption of horse genitalia, for the almighty dollar. We also can’t forget that history has taught us that men have done worse for far less. Craig and Violet are a couple that Marquis de Sade would have idolized and wished he had written about. While Violet is the obvious reciprocator of watching these increasingly lewd, sexual, violent acts that Colin and Vince do, Craig is the cuckold husband who is the financial means to an end. Although the narrative is lacking and depraved set-ups are sometimes wasted, this is still a devilishly fun watch.

“Cheap Thrills” shows how insane our characters are willing to go for a quick buck while silently whispering in the audiences ear, “How far would you go?” Our society still divides itself over what is morally right and wrong for some easy cash. Companies will still cut safety corners to save a dime while people will gladly lineup for the next season of bug eating or starvation on “Survivor”. So I ask myself…would I punch the bouncer of a strip club in the face for $500 with the repercussion being a solid blow to my own? Make it $2,000 to help cover the cost of potentially losing my dental crown and you got yourself a deal.


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