Craig (Pat Healy) is 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 runs into an old friend (Ethan Embry). The 2 are roped into a round of drinks by a charismatic and obscenely wealthy stranger (David Koechner) along with his mysterious wife (Sara Paxton). The couple engages the pair 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.Written by
From Rotten tomatoes
The eviction notice on Craig's door reveals that his address is 303 Reno Pl, Apartment 207 B. 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 »
I haven't felt this bad at the end of a movie since REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. This film, from E.L. Katz, is the ultimate feel-bad movie of the year. Believe it or not, I mean this all as praise. CHEAP THRILLS is a movie that drives its point home like a nail to the head. It's a dark comedy, emphasis on the dark, that aims to sensationalize the perceived apathy of the upper class to the suffering of the lower class, going so far as to take perverse joy in it. I never recall laughing over the course of the movie, but there were a few chuckles scattered amongst the groans and cringes. It opens on the worst day of Craig Daniels' (Pat Healy) unfortunate life. He wakes to an eviction notice posted to the door of the apartment where he lives with his wife and baby, and he's fired from his menial job at an auto shop later that afternoon. While he's drinking his problems away at a seedy bar later that night, he's reunited with an old friend, Vince (Ethan Embry) who earns a living rough housing gamblers to collect on debts. The night shifts in an interesting direction when they meet Colin (David Koechner) and his wife Violet (Sara Paxton), out on the town to celebrate Violet's birthday with some harmless. Colin and Violet enjoy betting each other on the pettiest of prospects (i.e. how a bar patron chooses to ogle the bartender), and they see an opportunity to have some fun with Craig and Vince. It starts simple who can drink their shot of tequila the fastest or who's willing to slap a stripper on the butt but, as the night goes on, the game grows more sinister.
CHEAP THRILLS wears its message on its sleeve. It's a frightening glimpse at the power of money and the lengths some will go to get it, but it's also a statement on what passes for entertainment now. The first point is the most blatant, as it's basically the premise of the movie. Colin and Violet are filthy rich. We don't know how he acquired his money; we just know he's got $250,000 chilling in an unlocked safe in his office for the sole purpose of blowing on his wife's birthday. Money is nothing to these people. But for the common man (in this instance, Craig and Vince), money is everything. Craig has a family to look out for and every cent earned goes toward securing their future. Vince is a thug who'd made some poor choices and sees a chance at a better life. At first it's all a game, but then it all goes south and the greed takes hold. Meanwhile, Colin cheers them on like a man watching the latest UFC fight at the local bar and Violet well Violet's chilling. She says very little over the course of the night but it quickly becomes apparent that there's something disturbing under her gorgeous visage. She's calm and collected, often seeming disinterested in the events unfolding around her. Again, it's all a game to these two and Violet shows a chilling disconnect from Craig and Vince's pain.
But, really, the audience isn't much better. The premise of CHEAP THRILLS reminds me a lot of modern culture's obsession with reality television. Average people are paraded about and put into often uncomfortable situations with the promise of potentially walking away with a nice chunk of change. People have no problem going on national television for the amusement of others to chow on bull testicles or knock themselves around in some bizarre obstacle course for the chance at wealth. Well, it's no different than what Craig and Vince endure in CHEAP THRILLS. Colin and Violet aren't any better than the general reality TV audience except, you know, their pretty evil. Things get insane here. This is definitely not a film for the feint of heart. I'm not the queasy sort of dude but there was some stuff here that had me gritting my teeth. This movie is determined to show the ugliness of greed and how it corrupts even the best intentions. This becomes apparent in the final third of the movie when it's obvious there isn't really a "good" guy anymore. We essentially start rooting for Craig. He's the family man who needs the money to give them a life but, by the end, he's just as ruthless as Vince. If anything, Vince is the less sympathetic character but retains the most humanity in the final moments. CHEAP THRILLS is a punch to the gut with a cast of characters that's impossible to associate with and it leaves a sour taste in your mouth when the end credits roll, but it's an entertaining funhouse mirror of a movie that goes off the rails to reflect some of the darkest elements of our culture.
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