Movie Review – Cheap Thrills (2013)

Director: E.L. Katz

Stars: Ethan Embry, Pat Healy, Sara Paxton, David Koechner

Craig (Healy) is a struggling writer who has just lost his job and is threatened with eviction, which is worrying because he has a wife and a newborn to support. He runs into an old high school friend, Vince (Embry) who drifts from petty jobs to jail. The two of them get roped into doing some bets by a couple, and as the bets increase underlying hostilities are revealed.

Cheap Thrills is a dark comedy that exposes the greedy, selfish side of humanity. It’s a premise that I’ve often talked about with my friends; if we won the jackpot it would be fun to go around and bet people to do things to see how ridiculous it can get. The bets here start as innocuous things but quickly escalate into very crude, daring, offensive things that play with the characters’ ethics.

Does every man have his price? This film suggests so. While watching it I was disturbed by some of the things Craig and Vince agreed and was vehement that I would never do that. Yet at the same time part of me though, well, if there was that amount of cold, hard cash on the table would I really be able to resist? I liked how the interactions between the characters happened. Vince and Craig weren’t really friends in the truest sense of the word, they were more acquaintances, but it lent a more dramatic flair to the film as they began to compete with each other. The lead actors were solid, and although Victoria (Paxton) was almost a spectator early on she grew into the film and became more of an important presence.

There are gory moments and the subject matter certainly isn’t for everyone so you’ll have to take that into account if you think about watching it. Some things may feel too over the top but it doesn’t feel gratuitous as it ties in with the premise of the film and the questions that it asks. The final scene is quite chilling as it really makes you wonder what you would do in the same situation. I know it wouldn’t have fit in the film but it would have been interesting to see more of an aftermath and how they reacted to all the trials.

Cheap Thrills is a solid film. It’s very dark humour and it’s not going to be for everyone but I feel it asks some pertinent questions that lets you examine your own limits. It’s certainly one that’s worth checking out.


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