Any movie synopsis that includes “black comedy” and “David Koechner” is an instant sell for me. Toss in Empire Records‘ Ethan Embry and the two leads from Ti West’s The Innkeepers and my expectations will be through the roof.
Cheap Thrills is in turns comedic, uncomfortable, and downright disturbing. Most of the times you’ll find yourself laughing, you’ll also be cringing. Ultimately, it begs the question “What would you do in this circumstance?”
Director: E.L. Katz
Release Date: February 21, 2014 (VOD), March 28, 2014 (theatrical)
Craig (Pat Healy) is in a bind. Laid off from his crappy job, with a wife and infant child at home and an eviction notice to deal with, he finds himself at the bar. There, he runs into his old friend Vince (Ethan Embry), a guy in the business of ‘collections.’ Before long, they make the acquaintance of the super-rich Colin (David Koechner) and his smoking hot wife Violet (Sara Paxton). It’s Violet’s birthday, and Colin has money to burn, which results in him paying Craig and Vince to perform a series of ridiculous tasks. Before long, they wind up back at Colin’s house, and things quickly escalate.
Pat Healy makes a perfect everyman loser. Everything ultimately hinges on his need to provide for his wife and child and he takes to the role very well. Ethan Embry plays one of those guys you were friends with for a long time, but eventually grew apart from because he keeps fighting guys for no reason while you’re out on the town, and plays that guy well. The really great thing about David Koechner is that every character he plays is essentially a lovable goof. Cheap Thrills adds a certain desensitization to that character that works perfectly for him. It’s the Koechner we know and love, but he’s so rich that other people are just pawns in his weird game. Sara Paxton spends most of the movie looking pretty and texting on her phone, only getting directly involved to further the game, and she’s surprisingly effective.
Cheap Thrills is a simple movie, really. Guy needs money, an opportunity presents itself, and that opportunity takes guy to a dark place. There a two main locations, a main cast you can count on one hand, and not much in the way of special effects. It’s a very lean movie, but boy did it suck me in. I instantly was sucked into Craig’s plight, myself barely existing from paycheck to paycheck, and have often thought of what I would do for easy money, and how much I would do it for. On top of that, I watched this movie with my girlfriend, and she asked me “Would you do X or Y to pay the rent?” She also walked out about two-thirds of the way through due to the subject matter. Any movie that sparks a dialogue and repels the squeamish gets high points in my book.
There’s really not a lot to say about Cheap Thrills. It has a great cast, a simple plot, and an effective execution. It’s gross, it’s violent, it’s a little sexy, and it gets its point across without belaboring it. If you’re in the mood for a dark comedy that will make you ask yourself the same questions posed to the protagonist of the film, Cheap Thrills is the one for you.
And you get to watch two dudes race each other to poop on someone’s floor. What’s not to love?