I don’t necessarily recommend Cheap Thrills. I’m not sure I can say I enjoyed it. But I am positive that I respect it. Here is a movie that is not at all the wacky comedy you might expect from the poster of its cast — consisting of two comedians, a character actor, and a vapid horror ingenue — frozen in mid-guffaw. It is instead a premise that is willing to go the distance, without playing it for easy laughs and certainly without flinching. What would you do for money? David Koechner, playing smaller than his usual persona, doles out the dares and dollars to two hapless men, who aren’t sure what to make of this game. Is it even a game?
“Okay, but I am not going to suck his dick,” Ethan Embry insists at one point after agreeing to the premise. Besides, it’s not that kind of movie. This isn’t a bawdy comedy, and it’s not a facile observation on reality TV culture, and it’s not even really a thriller. It’s simply a grim observational about, well, what people will do for money. Real people, for sums of money we can all relate to. These indecent proposals aren’t Indecent Proposal.
The real stand-out in this excellent and committed cast — even vapid horror ingenue Sara Paxton is pitch perfect — is Pat Healy as the sympathetic everyman. Healy has been doing yeoman’s work for years, quietly but effectively filling space in masterpieces like Magnolia and The Assassination of Jesse James. Here he’s front and center, willing to drive Cheap Thrills wherever first-time director E.L. Katz wants it to go, from an apartment in West LA to a dive bar in Silverlake to a house in the Hollywood Hills, from an innocent dare to raised stakes, from a sympathetic everyman to the final harshly lit scene of the uncomfortable point Cheap Thrills was making all along.
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