Cheap Thrills

A man gets fired and goes to a bar to drown his sorrows. While he is there he runs into an old friend from high school who is also a bit down on his luck. Eventually they are both joined by a couple that is throwing money around, and it starts out innocently enough – the couple offers a cash bonus to whoever can drink a shot faster. It quickly escalates: the next bonus is for getting slapped by a random woman at the bar, or getting into a fight with the bouncer… Even novice viewers can predict the impending darkness that’s the only outcome from the initial set up.

The problem with this movie is that the question is not “how far will these people go for money?” because the answer is obviously “very, very far, probably way farther than it would be enjoyable to see.” If you are cynical about human nature or have a basic idea of how much a human life costs when someone is desperate then there is no reason to get attached to these characters who are about to ride a slippery slope to the bottom.

No, the real question in this movie is “how interesting will the dares be?” Once we’ve established a baseline of cruelty, the only novelty is in how imaginative the bets become. There’s an incredible variety of shitty things that the sinister couple could make their guinea pigs do. For the most part, the dares are tamer than your average Jackass movie - “poop in the neighbors house!” - or are simply violent. When the nastiness is unleashed, it has a certain blunt impact, but that brutishness doesn’t make for a pleasant viewing experience.

I can imagine a version of this movie where the agitating force is a Roman emperor, not a coked up noveau riche dickhole, and that movie is 1000% more interesting to me. Oh, sure, it’s still just going to be cruel, but there would at least be the potential for it to go somewhere daring; those Roman emperors knew how to party. They wouldn’t have settled for making their human toys eat a dog when they own a whole menagerie from tigers to peacocks. That movie might have ended up the same way, but the scenery on the ride would have been a lot more exotic.

Winner: The Cat

Cheap Thrills on IMDB