It’s shaping up to be a bad day for bespectacled sad sack Craig (Pat Healy). Not only has his mewling months-old infant interrupted morning coitus, but he’s also been downsized from his job as an auto repairman—a big problem considering the eviction notice on his apartment door. E.L. Katz’s well-acted but feebleminded black comedy follows our beleaguered protagonist into a hell-red dive bar, where he runs into old acquaintance Vince (Ethan Embry), who could also use a cash infusion. Enter mystery couple Violet (Sara Paxton) and Colin (David Koechner)—tossing around the Benjamins with Jordan Belfort–like aplomb—who are prepared to pay Craig and Vince large sums in return for fulfilling an increasingly freakish series of bets.
It’s the hotdogger have-nots cockfighting for the 1 percent’s masturbatory pleasure. And yes, we mean literal masturbation: Katz and his collaborators don’t exactly flinch from portraying the worst aspects of human nature (don’t get too attached to that cute little canine, dog lovers). Yet this repugnant quartet’s bad behavior never feels truly and pointedly transgressive so much as trivially nauseating—especially once Craig and Vince are pitted against each other in a shit-stained, blood-soaked, finger-chopping battle for a quarter-mil payout. Cheap Thrills is little more than low-budget torture porn for the doobie-addled dudebro contingent.
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