Cheap Thrills Review
|Take in this moment, for its the last time any of these guys smile the rest of the film.|
Right now, I want to get on every radio station, every channel on television, every social media outlet, and on every mountain across the world. I want to shout at the top of my lungs to tell everyone to go see "Cheap Thrills." Easily, the best movie of the year so far, one of the craziest, most delirious, most bizarre rides I've been on in awhile. "Cheap Thrills" is a blistering movie that will get under your skin quick and never let up. That's what I want to tell everyone immediately. It is completely unlike anything playing at any theater right now, its unlike anything you'll see within the next few months (maybe, I maybe too far into hyperbole right now.) This is a movie that calls for a rowdy time, its a movie you'll be thinking about, that you'll discuss the next day with the first organism you come into contact with.
On the other hand, I am afraid to hype this baby up too much. "Cheap Thrills" is definitely a movie that is not for everyone. There are big moments in this movie that will turn the casual viewer off. "Cheap Thrills" is a movie only for those who have thick skin. Those who do not mind a movie with a somber ending. Those who don't mind with coming up with some answers themselves, because this movie doesn't give us all the answers. Sometimes I hate that, sometimes I find that a special director can create something good out of it. Director E.L. Katz has created something demented, something filthy, something daringly haunting and it needs to be seen. Katz leaves some things unresolved, and its up to the audience to create an outcome. You just have to understand what your getting yourself into.
The film opens introducing Craig (Pat Healy in an unforgettable first performance). Craig lives with his wife and 15-month-old son in a crampy apartment in Los Angeles. On the morning of the movie, he gets an eviction notice and he looses his job at a car shop. He feels so depressed and helpless that he tells his wife he is meeting up with a friend, but instead goes to a sleazy bar to drink away his misfortunes. Craig then meets up with Vince (Ethan Embry), an outgoing guy who apparently knew Craig in high school. Craig is kind and polite, but there seems to be a tension between the two. Its tough to cipher whether or not Craig and Vince were the best of friends in high school.
Just as Craig is about to leave, he sees Vince talking with Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sarah Paxton), a strange married couple who invited Vince to drink with them. Colin is very welcoming in an uncomfortable kind of way, the exact type of person you try to shrug off at the bar. But he's buying very expensive alcohol for Vince and Craig, and its Violet's birthday, so Craig decides to stay for a few more drinks. Things start to get really weird once Colin begins offering money to Vince and Craig for certain dares. At first, its all seemingly harmless, i.e. who can take a shot first, who can do this and that first. But as the movie wears on the dares start to escalate and escalate and escalate to the point that my jaw was hanging off my mouth when there only six and half minutes left in the movie. Craig and Vince become so unrecognizable its insane. Who are Colin and Violet? Are they two rich, bored nitwits just looking for a good time, or two scientists conducting a social experiment?
That is all the description I want to give to you. Because trust me, you are not going to want me to spoil this for you. "Cheap Thrills" is a wild ride. It is edited in a stylish, gritty, grounded way that is addicting. At first, "Cheap Thrills" will look like a dark comedy that is stranger than usual, but once Craig gets knocked out by a security guard and the group ends up back at Colin's house, it becomes something else entirely. If you know David Koechner, you'll remember him from "Anchorman" and many other slapstick style comedies. This is absolutely nothing like anything he has ever done before, and if this movie takes off, it will transform him into a star. After you see "Cheap Thrills," you'll want Pat Healy to be in 100 new movies starting tomorrow. His transition from loving family man, to sad unemployed loner to deranged individual is quite the astonishing accomplishment. This is also different work from Ethan Embry. Yes, Embry has done movies similar to this one in the past, but there is a dark fiery to his presence in this movie that was unforgettable. Everyone's work is above-par and it makes "Cheap Thrills" that much better.
Another thing "Cheap Thrills" gets right is its comedy, and you better believe it pushes the dark comedy genre to the edge. There were several moments in this film where I started laughing, then sat back, thought about what I was laughing at, then instantly felt ashamed. That is going to happen to you too over the course of this movie. This is smart comedy that is jet-black in its tone. Many have tried to capture this type of comedy before, and many of them have failed. E.L. Katz makes it all look so effortless. At the same time, E.L. Katz is taking you down an ambitious road, and I am curious to see how casual viewers take in what he shows you. Like I said above, its not going to be for everyone, but if you give it a try, you may find you had more in common with it than you imagined.
Impeccably told by a great cast of actors, "Cheap Thrills" is absolutely worth seeing and easily the movie to beat for 2014 right now. Its rough around the edges, its got some hard laughs and some incredibly dark material. But every single moment and every single minute of "Cheap Thrills" is expertly told and richly imagined. Buckle up, turn it up, give it a try.
FINAL GRADE: A