Title Says It All
Is money the root of all evil? Thatís certainly the case in Cheap Thrills, a dark comedy about the horrible things a person might do for the right price if the need is great enough. Persuasion also enters into the picture here, for the person with a lot of money to throw away knows how to ease the needy one down the path of immorality. Itís not easy to watch this slow-paced, shockingly ugly journey. And because the actors are so believable, the whole thing seems even worse. In fact, Cheap Thrills ends up being one of the few movies I regret watching. But the film definitely lives up to its title.
Pat Healy (Ghost World ) plays Craig, a guy who loses his job and faces eviction from the house he shares with his wife and baby. No wonder heís not eager to get home and break the bad news about being fired! You canít blame Craig for stopping at a local bar, where he meets Vince, an old friend (Ethan Embry), who urges him to drown his sorrows with booze. Itís not long before these two men seem to be having a good time drinking and partying with Colin, a very rich stranger (David Koechner), and his sexy wife Violet (Sara Paxton). Soon Colin suggests various challenges involving the two friends. He offers to pay the winner of each contest because Violet, whoís celebrating her birthday, loves watching the competition.
Unfortunately, each challenge gets more dangerous -- from who can hold their breath the longest to loss of body parts and worse. But the payoffs also increase dramatically. How far will Craig and his friend go for the monetary reward offered? While watching the movie, an even more important question comes to mind -- how far would you go in a situation like this?
In the role of an average guy down in the dumps, Healy earns our sympathy early on. If it werenít for bad luck, Craig would have no luck at all. His situation resonates with us because so many people are losing their jobs as a result of downsizing now. We canít help hoping things will get better for him. But as the story develops, Craig gradually changes into someone completely different. His behavior in the competition with Vince becomes more and more brutal. Embry (Ordinary Man) also does an excellent job showing how Vince changes from friend to foe. And Koechner (Anchorman ) delivers a surprisingly effective -- and against-type -- turn as an affable master of ceremonies with malevolence at the heart of the nasty game heís set up. As Violet, Paxton (Aquamarine) not only provides eye candy but also some of the filmís most interesting moments.
How does all this end? Not quickly enough for me. Still, I have to congratulate director E. L. Katz and screenwriters David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga for giving us an ending we will never forget.
(Released by Drafthouse Films; not rated by MPAA.)
For more information about Cheap Thrills, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.