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Movie Review: 'Cheap Thrills' ups the ante on being a jackass for cash

Cheap Thrills


If you've watched the show "Jackass" on MTV, you probably witnessed Johnny Knoxville and his crew submitting themselves to all manner of dangerous, crude and downright crazy stunts and pranks.

Cheap Thrills poster
Cheap Thrills poster / Drafthouse Films

In director E.L. Katz's first feature film, "Cheap Thrills," he ups the ante on preposterous jackassery and mixes in ample amounts of sublime dark comedy to craft a twisted tale about a sadistic scheming couple that pit a struggling family man against his old high school classmate in a series of increasingly bloody and sinister dares for cash.

"Cheap Thrills" centers around Craig (Pat Healy from "Compliance"), a struggling family man who loses his low-wage job and faces eviction.

Trying to drown away his problems at a local bar, Craig encounters an old high school classmate, Vince, (Ethan Embry from "Empire Records").

The duo are soon roped into a round of drinks by a charismatic and obscenely wealthy stranger Colin, (David Koechner from "Anchorman 2"), along with his sultry wife, Violet, (Sara Paxton from "The Inkeepers").

After a quick trip to a strip club, where Craig gets his nose broken after earning some quick cash for sucker punching a bouncer, the two men end up at the couple's upscale home.

Desperate for money, they get sucked into a series of weird dares, including taking a shit inside the neighbor's house and eating their dog in exchange for cash.

As the night progresses, Colin and Violet begin upping the ante in terms of payout and personal boundaries.

But what seems like easy money, soon pushes the two men towards a moral and ethical breaking point.

Director Katz keeps the film moving at a jaunty pace thanks to a sharp screenplay from writers David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, along with the atmospheric cinematography of Andrew Wheeler and Sebastian Wintero.

At the core of "Cheap Thrills" are the great performances from Healy and Embry as a pair of sad sack guys looking for a quick fix to their lifelong financial problems.

Known more for being a comic actor, Koechner also fits in perfectly with the film's dark humor and pathos, while Paxton adds the requisite femme fatale energy to the proceedings.

Although the filmmakers attempt to mix in some social satire and commentary, painting a bleak picture of the rich using the poor for their own purposes (and amusement), the film tends to work best when allowing its inherently dark humor and pathos to just seep through the screen.

However, be warned that "Cheap Thrills" is not an easy film to sit through because of its squirm in your seat graphic violence and gross out pranks, but for those willing to pay the price, its a cinematic ride worth checking out.

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