A glorious black comedy directed by E.L. Katz, Cheap Thrills unfolds over a single night of escalating dares that push darker and more insane with every passing minute. Craig (Pat Healy) has a wife and infant son at home and is barely making ends meet at his menial job changing oil in cars. Vince (Ethan Embry), a friend of his from school, is a legbreaker for… someone… and you get the feeling the cash is not so free-flowing for him either. They run into each other at a bar after not having seen one another for years.
Across the room are Colin and Violet (David Koechner and Sara Paxton), a couple so filthy rich they have nothing better to do with their time than make silly bets with each other. The two pairs end up talking, and Colin offers money to Craig and Vince to do increasingly crazy things. It starts with $50 to whoever can finish this shot first and grows gradually bigger and bigger until tens of thousands of dollars are on the line for performing actions that are a bit more substantial than downing a drink.
Craig and Vince, who it seems were not always the best of friends in the past, become entrenched in a battle of wills to win the next round. They have opposing kinds of desperation that motivate them equally to win the next round; Craig’s the familyman who needs to keep his home life together, whereas Vince is a bit rougher around the edges and– on the surface– is more willing to do whatever it takes. Craig in particular is the best kind of pale kind of pushover that keeps coming back for more.
Cheap Thrills is so completely bonkers and so completely great. Anyone with even a mild interest in black comedy needs to check it out immediately. As it happens, it is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD, but also notably directly from the distributor’s website here. By all accounts, Drafthouse Films are good people and they sure distribute interesting movies, so if you’re considering buying it, why not consider buying it straight from the source?