I really dig a well made piece of genre film. They often deal in exaggerated extremes, and the darker side of humanity. They can be simultaneously completely self aware and sincere, in terms of message and character. They often tell tales about life on the fringes and they expose a side of humanity that just isn’t dealt with a lot in the mainstream. They are movies that are made for exactly who they’re for, and no one else.
That’s what I probably enjoy the most about these types of movies. Whether I ultimately enjoy the movie or not, the best examples never pander. Sure, there are artificially made genre movies like the Machete movies, but those types of pictures have fallen out of favor with the general public. Probably because they feel fake. They lack the sincerity that a good “trashy” genre flick has going for it. A lot of times, they are films that are made through attrition, every frame being a labor of love, and convincing investors to keep funding the project.
With the advent of digital photography, it’s never been easier for these types of film makers to not only get their movies made and tell stories they want to without much compromise, but also make them look great. Film making has become more democratic, and for truly talented “would be” storytellers the flood gates have been opened. No longer is the “business” predicated on things like nepotism and affluence, but rather based on one’s will, and, obviously, skill.
The same can be said, in terms of opportunity, for good character actors, and also slightly more well known actors being given the chance to engage with characters that audiences wouldn’t expect from them. In the larger form of the the movie business, you’re either a huge star, that is only allowed to play roles that support your “brand,” or you’re a character actor… Who is only allowed to play a certain type of character, like, a creep or the nice best friend. Well, now that the low budget genre flicks are gaining a wider audience, thanks in no small measure to the VOD model, these actors are allowed to play in a playground that is usually only left for major stars.
Given all that clap-trap, enter Cheap Thrills, a movie that has shot to the top of my most anticipated flick for 2014. I’ve grown almost exhausted by all the big budget super hero movies, and the self aware, wink wink, style action movies, or the constant social politic preaching drama movies. Sometimes, I feel like there just isn’t much out there for me at the cineplex. I’m always checking Fandango to see what’s playing, and very rarely do I see a title that motivates me enough to put on some pants and drive somewhere. Even something like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug doesn’t procure much excitement from this cranky brain. I will say, though, that The Wolf of Wall Street has me pretty excited. So, it’s not entirely a “scorched earth” type of movie landscape out there.
This trailer, though… Holy shit, is this right up my alley. It looks so mean spirited and wild, how could I not be excited for it!? Desperate people doing fucked up things, putting aside their dignity for the chance to do nothing more than provide for themselves, and their families. It doesn’t seem to be totally empty headed, either, and seems to speak to the current economic climate. While the example that the movie gives is extreme, it’s very relate-able to someone like myself. I’m out there in there in the working class world, and what are the jobs that I take on, to eek out an existence, if not doing things that sometimes, weirdly, compromise my feeling of self worth for the profit, and amusement, of some nebulous, wealthy overlord. So, what the film purports a subtext that totally works for me, and maybe creates a wee bit of bias.
Beyond that, I really dig actor, Pat Healy, and it’s nice to see him getting some leading roles. I’ve only seen him in a few smaller films, and even then he was still playing only small roles(The Innkeeprs, Compliance). Well, I guess you could make the argument that this flick seems more like an ensemble, but the propulsion of the plot definitely seems to come from his character’s dilemma. I’m also a really big fan of David Koechner. He’s really great at playing a wide variety of assholes that are easy to like. Sure, what his characters do is pretty deplorable, but there’s just something that emanates from his person that makes even his total dick head characters hard to hate, but they are always in movies that are, more or less, pretty light. Taking advantage of his persona, or skills, and putting them into a new context seems like really smart casting to me.
It seems to be a movie that, surface plot wise, is all about escalation. How far will these characters go; how far will they allow themselves to be degraded for a buck? Like I said before, it’s a message that is aimed directly at the working class. I don’t imagine that it will be overtly explicit with it’s messaging, but even from just the trailer I can see it in there. We live in a desperate world, and as the class divide continues to widen with every passing piece of legislation, it seems totally prescient. Yeah, it’s pretty easy to take aim at the wealthy, and cast them as the villains, which seems to be a current trend these days, but hopefully the movie gives Koechner’s character some dimension, and doesn’t just leave it at a caricature. There’s an interesting conversation to be had here, and I hope, at the very least, the movie is fair, and doesn’t just entirely pander to our down trodden spirit. Garnering an emotional reaction is one thing, but making people think and broadening their perspective is an important faculty to entertain if you really want to say something.
Like the title of this thing infers, I’m pretty excited for Cheap Thrills, and I really can’t wait for it to come out. It hits VOD on Valentine’s Day, and considering the type of person I am, this seems like some great counter-programming for the disgusting commercial holiday. I’ll be there, that’s for sure. I might even bring roses, and chocolates!