Dark, twisted, and emotionally disturbed in ways almost too delightful and clever to spoil, the coal black comedy Cheap Thrills certainly lives up to its name and then some thanks to clever writing and solid performances.
Struggling writer and married father Craig (Pat Healy) has just lost his oil changing gig and finds his new family on the verge of eviction. Depressed, Craig meets up with Vince (Ethan Embry) for a drink. The pair hadn’t seen each other for five years with Craig going respectable and Vince getting money as a loan shark enforcer. While Vince can’t bail his buddy out for the full $4,500 that he needs to just get to even, the pair are approached by a married couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton) out for the wife’s birthday. There’s nothing that the husband can’t make better by throwing around exuberant amounts of cash at it or by doing some coke or pills. Throughout the night the couple engages the estranged friends in a game of dares for cash that get sicker and sicker as the night progresses.
Becoming a decidedly different kind of dark comedy about halfway through, E.L. Katz’s film about friendship and desperation escalates somewhat awkwardly, but rebounds nicely with a brutal, but surprisingly thought-provoking finale. The film’s sense of dark humour also never raises to laugh-out-loud funny levels, but it isn’t really supposed to all the time, with most of the outlandish gags (including one that will undoubtedly make some viewers turn into immediate vegetarians) played perfectly straight in spite of their utter lunacy. The serious tone makes for a better film, and Koechner and Embry are especially embracing it head on. Both are a lot of fun to watch and haven’t been this great in quite some time.
Friday, October 25th, 7:00pm, Scotiabank Theatre