cheap_thrills_pat-healy-ethan-embry

What doesn’t kill you makes you richer.

A calculatedly nasty little fable for these hard-up times, darkly comic thriller Cheap Thrills entangles two cash-strapped losers in the perverse games of a thrill-seeking rich couple and poses the question: just how far would you go for money?

Newly downsized from his blue-collar job and facing eviction, mild family man Craig (Pat Healy) is drowning his sorrows in a bar when he runs into an old school friend, Vince (Ethan Embry), an ex-con now working as a debt collector for a loan shark.

The resentments and rivalries left over from their former friendship have barely been scratched before they get drawn into the orbit of well-heeled couple Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton), out celebrating Violet’s birthday.

Before very long, the extravagant Colin has moved from free-spending, $300 tequila-buying generosity into challenging Craig and Vince into a series of bets and dares. And, when the quartet wind up in the couple’s swanky home in the Hollywood Hills, the stakes and the dares get higher and higher…

First-time director EL Katz ratchets up the tension effectively as the game gets ever more sickeningly dark, but it’s his cast’s fine performances that keep us watching and give this far-fetched tale a degree of emotional plausibility.

starstrip3

Certificate 15. Runtime 86 mins. Director E.L. Katz.