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USA 2013
Directed by
E.L. Katz
88 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Cheap Thrills

There are plenty of exploitation film out there that pander to baser instincts. E.L. Katz’s Cheap Thrills bears a certain resemblance to them but, for all its nastiness it has a atypical depth that merits consideration.  

Craig (Pat Healy) who is supporting his young wife and 15 month old child isn’t doing very well. On the same day that he receives an eviction notice for failing to meet the rent  he gets fired,   Repairing to ta local tavern to lick his wounds he meets into an old friend, Vince (Ethan Embry), somewhat of a dodgy character who collects debts for a living,  Also in the bar is the affable Colin (David Koechner) and his impassive wife Violet (Sara Paxton) who invite them over for a drink to celebrate the latter’s birthday. Colin is throwing money around like nobody’s business and as the night escalates, Vince and Craig get drawn deeper and deeper into Colin and Violet’s twisted game.

Although there isn’t really much on the film’s surface with the scenario having a banality that makes one wonder where it is leading, its exploration of the contingency of morality is quite devastatingly pursued to its bitter end. Cleverly, the script by Trent Haaga and David Chirchirillo pits the two erstwhile friends, one a responsible family man in desperate straits, the other simply a desperate man, against each other so that there is a real dynamic driving the action, not just a moral thesis.

Which is not to say that Cheap Thrills is for everyone but for those up for a challenge, it is bold and original film-making, economically assembled with effective performances that make the improbably contrived scenario work surprisingly well.

Available from: Madman




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