Film Review: Engrossing ‘Cheap Thrills’ Bets on Men’s Desperation

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – “Cheap Thrills” is a case study in human desperation and depravity. It’s a sick and twisted film, but it goes about it in a most absorbing albeit uncomfortable way. It’s one of those films that forces the viewer to place themselves in the protagonist’s unpredictable position, asking a question like, “What would you do for money?” Once you do it, what else are you willing to do for more and then, “How far is too far?” Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

In his directorial debut, E.L. Katz, along with screenwriters David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, want us to ask such questions and many more. Based on the levels of humiliation and pain witnessed on the screen, they also want us to squirm in frustrated and anger. It’s like a product of “The Twilight Zone” and “Creepshow” spilling into each other, that happens to deliver one of the most memorable endings of the year.  

Down and out Craig Daniels (Pat Healy) bumps into an old high school friend, Vince (Ethan Embry) in a local Los Angeles bar late one night. Vince enthusiastically states it’s been five years since they’ve seen each other, but Craig has other things on his mind. Earlier that evening, he found an eviction notice on the door of the apartment he shares with his wife, Audrey (Amanda Fuller) and their fifteen-month old son. Then he was let go from his job changing oil at an auto shop after thinking he might get a raise. Clearly, Craig isn’t there to socialize and hearing Vince ask how his writing is going probably doesn’t make matters any better. 

The two reunited friends then meet Violet (Sara Paxton) and Colin (David Koechner), a filthy rich couple out celebrating her birthday. Buying a three hundred dollar bottle of tequila is no big deal for the brazen and loud Colin, who invites Craig and Vince to party with him and his quiet wife. As the drinks are downed, Colin offers up monetary bets to the two desperate men just for kicks. Daring them to get a woman at the bar to slap them for $100 or seeing which one of them can drink the fastest for $50. The party transfers to a strip club and then eventually lands in the couple’s fancy home in the hills, with the bets becoming higher and increasingly bizarre.

“Cheap Thrills” continues its limited release in Chicago on April 11th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Amanda Fuller, Sara Paxton and David Koechner. Written by Trent Haaga and David Chirchirillo. Directed by E. L. Katz. Not Rated

StarContinue reading for David J. Fowlie’s full review of ”Cheap Thrills”

Ethan Embry
Vince (Ethan Embry) in ‘Cheap Thrills’
Photo credit: Cinedigm

StarContinue reading for David J. Fowlie’s full review of ”Cheap Thrills”

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