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The Dark Side of 'Cheap Thrills'

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Cheap Thrills is a black comedy about a regular guy (Pat Healey) who loses his job and ends up drinking with a long-lost high school buddy (a bulked-up Ethan Embry, a long way removed from Can't Hardly Wait). They meet up with a wealthy dude (David Koechner, the great Champ Kind from Anchorman) and his hot wife (Sara Paxton) and the rich folks start daring them to do ever more outrageous things for cash. It's available now on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD from Drafthouse Films.

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Anyone who stumbles across this in the Redbox or while browsing their cable on-demand options and decides to rent based on their love of Anchorman is going to get a nasty surprise. Koechner is really good here, but he's taking those fleeting, creepy Champ moments (there were more of them in Anchorman 2 than in the original movie) and expanding them out for an entire movie.

The DVD box makes no secret about the blood and broken noses, but there's also a lot more graphic stuff with knives and guns that's not really played for laughs. A handful of you will find the queasy stuff to be hilarious and watch this movie with your friends a couple of times a year for a long time. It's one of those movies where the mayhem itself is supposed to shock you into laughing.

Actors love this stuff: it's a microscopic budget, so you end up with four people in a room with no special effects to distract from their performances. The lack of a big chase scene or explosions means that first-time director E.L. Katz gets the story told in 85 minutes.

Anyone who's paying attention in the first five minutes will realize that the story's going to end badly for at least one of the major players. Enough of them are still standing at the end that no one should be surprised if there's a sequel.

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