Cheap Thrills, a dark comedy which examines a struggle between patriarchal and hedonistic males. After Craig, the family man, loses his job and is facing eviction he meets up with an old high school badboy Vince. After the two reconnect, they meet Violet and Colin a money to burn couple who will offer any amount of cash to make the two friends do any depraved or violent act, excluding homosexuality of course.
Although there are a several honest attempts at humor, only depraved souls like Marquis De Sade will be laughing the whole way through. The aspect of comedy could be examined in a Shakespearean context. For example, at the core of this movie is a protagonist who literally breaks down his homosocial bonds in order to strengthen his heterosexual relationship and status with his wife.
What we also see is a story revolving around a Darwinian example of survival of the fittest. Because the family man needs resources in order to provide for his family, Craig never lacks the reason or motivation to commit to doing the next horrible act. Meanwhile, hedonistic Vince is only motivated by the pleasurable aspects of each situation such as, drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence. When a new situation arises which makes Vince uncomfortable he often falters and hesitates; however, because Craig is motivated by the intrinsic need to provide for his family, it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable the situation may be as long as he gets the payoff.
The production was average. The camera angles and movement made it feel indie but the lighting and sound editing didn’t make it a burden to watch. Sara Paxton played a coked out wife Violet who they almost had to cattle prong for her to show any emotion during the sex scene. Although David Koechner’s performance was pitch perfect, him playing the sleezy alpha male husband Colin didn’t seem to be much of stretch from his normal. However, the main focus of the movie was on Vince and Craig, and Pat Healy and Ethan Embry both reached and gave remarkable performances of lowlives. It was interesting watching Healy transforming from a meek to savage character. Also with Embry getting his start from playing nice guy teen to his later proper gentlemen roles, it was really nice to see him break out of that comfort zone by beating a man’s face in or by doing acts that are surely to offend every dog lover.
Overall, the story was completely fascinating and a morbidly entertaining way of deconstructing the archetypal image of the father figure while the performances by the cast and the production didn’t make it unbearable to watch. The pacing was good and one could not help but be drawn in. It will be interesting to see what new themes and style the the creators will tackle next.