Cheap Thrills follows Craig (Pat Healy, Compliance), a struggling family man who loses his low-wage job and is threatened with eviction. In an effort to delay facing the music at home, he heads to a local bar and encounters an old friend (Ethan Embry, Empire Records). The two friends are roped into a round of drinks by a charismatic and obscenely wealthy stranger (David Koechner, Anchorman 2) along with his mysterious wife (Sara Paxton, The Inkeepers). The couple engages the two friends in a series of innocent dares in exchange for money over the course of the evening, with each challenge upping the ante in both reward and boundaries. It seems like easy and much needed money, but the couple's twisted sense of humor pushes just how far Craig and his friend are willing to go for money and cheap thrills. (c) Drafthouse Written by
From Rotten tomatoes
Pat Healy and Sara Paxton already worked together in "The Innkeepers" (2011) See more »
When Vince is challenged to hold his breath, after Craig speaks to Audrey on the phone Colin announces that Vince's time was 1 minute, 59 seconds. Later, when Vince asks what his time was, Colin says his time was 1 minute, 58 seconds. A difference of one second is significant in the context of the challenge. See more »
An allegory of sorts for the Occupy generation, "Cheap Thrills" endeavors to answer the age-old question of just how far you would be willing to go for a boatload of cash. Especially when you've just lost your job, you're being evicted from your home, and you have a wife and toddler counting on you for support. This is the dilemma facing Craig (Pat Healy), an Average-Joe, mild-mannered urbanite who's genuinely trying to play by the rules but who just keeps getting dumped on by a world that seems dead-set against him ever achieving his portion of the American Dream.
On the night he loses his job as a mechanic at a Southern California garage, Craig wanders into a local bar only to hook up with an old buddy of his from childhood (Ethan Embry) and an obnoxious, borderline- sadistic millionaire (David Koechner) who keeps tossing money at the two men whenever they perform impromptu, trivial tasks for him. Things turn serious, however, when Mr. Moneybags ups the ante, throwing out ever more enticing financial rewards for ever more vile and degrading stunts.
Though fairly simple and straightforward on the surface, "Cheap Thrills," written by Trent Haaga and David Chichirillo and directed by E.L Katz, is really a modern-day parable about greed, desperation, exploitation and the dangers of unbridled macho bravado. It portrays, in miniature, a world in which a small number of people have virtually everything in terms of wealth and power, while the vast majority wind up with virtually nothing they can call their own. Craig and Vince have so little to lose, in fact, that they are willing to go to unimaginable extremes to get at least something to keep themselves from feeling like total failures in life. They sense that their very identity as men is on the line here and, thus, they will stop at nothing to assert their primacy over one another, the first step in securing that which they feel is rightfully owed to them and their families.
Colin, along with his equally amoral wife, Violet (Sara Paxton), on the other hand, represents the callous 1% who amuse themselves at the expense of other people's desperation, going so far as to pit the have- nots against one another for the sheer pleasure of watching them brawling in the dirt over the scraps that are condescendingly thrown their way. This is Darwin's "survival of the fittest" as it is played out in 21st Century America.
Crude, brutal, at times unwatchable even, "Cheap Thrills," nevertheless, manages to get under the viewer's skin, forcing him to face harsh truths about society and human nature and to ask himself just how far he would be willing to go to get what he needed to survive. It doesn't paint a very flattering portrait of us as a species, but, let's face it, sometimes you don't always like what you see when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror.
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