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Cheap Thrills follows Craig, a struggling family man who loses his low-wage job and is threatened with eviction. In an effort to delay facing the music at home, he heads to a local bar and encounters an old friend. The two friends are roped into a round of drinks by a charismatic and obscenely wealthy,increasingly twisted dares in exchange for money over the course of the evening, with each challenge upping the ante in both reward and boundaries.
Screenwriters David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga pose a simple question -- how much will a person degrade himself to make ends meet? -- but it's a potent one, at least for those of us who ponder it every Monday through Friday.
To describe them would diminish their impact, but there are several occasions where it is tough to keep looking at the screen. Yet, thanks to the characters and their portrayals, you can't really look away, either.
Director EL Katz ratchets up the tension effectively as the game gets ever more sickeningly dark, but it's his cast's fine performances that keep us watching and give this far-fetched tale a degree of emotional plausibility.