Craig, a husband and father of a young baby boy, is struggling mightily just to get by. He has just been served an eviction notice and to make matters worse, he arrives at his job as an auto mechanic to learn that he has been laid off. Unable to face the inevitable, Craig heads to a local bar to drink away his sorrow only to encounter his childhood friend, Vince. The two friends catch-up, eventually being roped into round after round of drinks by an obscene but extremely wealthy stranger with money to burn. This stranger and his lovely wife engage in a series of innocent dares with the two men, in exchange for money, which quickly escalates. E.L. Katz's Cheap Thrills is a extremely dark, narcissistic comedy that almost makes the viewer feel bad for enjoying it so much. The film features an extremely simple but effective concept, strong performances, and an overstated but important theme that rings true even taken in this extreme context. Even if you completely ignore the pure escapism aspect of the film, Cheap Thrills is a pointed commentary on the power of money, with Craig and Vince being two blue-collar types desperate to get ahead. When these two men first meet they are incredibly nice and cordial towards each other but as soon as money becomes involved, the two men turn against each other for the almighty dollar. Adding to this equation is the rich stranger, who could easily be viewed as a representation of the 1%, taking advantage of the desperation of these two men, pinning them against each other for his own benefit. E.L. Katz's Cheap Thrills is a darkly entertaining piece of filmmaking that works both as escapism and a commentary on the power of money.
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