People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different. In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all. Read on!
If it’s released by Drafthouse Films, which it is, it’s going to be weird and quite possibly very, very good.
Cheap Thrills, which I watched slightly intoxicated on my friend’s couch, was one of the most unnervingly amazing film experiences I’ve had in years. Starring Pat Healy and Ethan Embry (who is very good in this film) as old high school friends who get pulled into an absolutely brutal game of sort-of-Truth-or-Dare by a super wealthy guy (David Koechner) and his almost non-existent wife (Sarah Paxton), Cheap Thrills starts small and creepy and goes relatively big and creepy. If anything, Cheap Thrills is a testament to what a well constructed story can do. E.L. Katz crafts a series of “bets” that lead from the mundane (“who can take a shot faster?”) to the absolutely ridiculous (and I won’t spoil any of them) but they always feel steeped within the current context of the characters. This is a story about two losers on the edges of normal society and what the draw of money, and the power it brings, can do. Pat Healy and Ethan Embry are both amazing sides of the loser coin, truly down-on-their-luck humans who are just trying to drag themselves back in to the black. It’s really David Koechner who steals the film though. Katz has tapped in to the manic, sad, always-on-the-edge humor Koechner is renowned for, but turned it to the darkest levels. Koechner hums with energy, the good, the bad and the ugly, and his presence, and the subtle way the script drags you down the rabbit hole, had me squirming in my seat. It’s surprisingly funny, in the grimmest most pitch-black way possible, but at its heart, Cheap Thrills is a film about the edges of society, and what we’ll do as human beings to pull ourselves off of it.
Trust Drafthouse Films. Also, never go to a person’s house in the middle of the night after getting punched in the face and start doing ridiculous things for money. I mean it.